Paul Robinson’s explanation of that goal (video below) only serves to highlight the pressure and desperation that grips the England camp.
If you win, people laugh and say it’s not good enough.
If you lose, people call for your head and demand answers.
Macca’s 3-5-2 was a defensive measure, which Bilic said would play into their hands and allow them to attack England. The formation is by nature counter-attacking, and it needed the defence to be extra-solid, and the four front men – Rooney, Crouch, Lampard and Carrick, to be at least in second gear.
Carrick was surprisingly under orders to drop back, or to roam around the park, or something similar. Parker put in his due share of tackles but between him and Carrick there really should have been just one player sitting back, with the other bombing forward alongside Lampard. The 3-5-2 was turned into a 6-3 as the Croatian midfield expertly cut off Lamps, Rooney and Crouch from the rest of the team. Who is to blame for that? The captain, John Terry, the midfielders, and the management staff, McClaren and Venables.
Terry is not a particularly bright captain – he has succeeded at Chelsea mainly because of Mourinho’s excellent tactical planning and his own drive to fight till the end. Without proper tactics, that drive is useless, and he wasn’t able to ‘rally the troops’ as he had expected.
The midfield lacks a clear leader – with both Gerrard and Hargreaves injured, England lack two of their most energetic performers. England need a Nolan, a Reo-Coker – if only for the level of leadership they provide. Parker is an able captain, but his role was too limited – it would have been better if England had used a regular holding midfielder and Parker with Carrick or Lampard.
McClaren admits that the tactics did not work, but that’s little comfort after a string of performances in which the results are not so worrying as is the body language and effort put in by the players. The England squad is going through a collective slump in form, and the only ‘reliable’ operators in the team right now are Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry – and their effectiveness was marginalised by a 3-5-2 that was experimented in a tough away game.
Macca needs to focus on results over flexibility, basic technique over passion and courage, coherency and consistency over meaningless chest-thumping cliches.
He has 5 months to sort himself out – odds are he’ll fail.
“It was a freak goal. It happened where the Croatian goalkeeper was taking his kicks and it left divots in the pitch.
He had been taking goal-kicks in the first half and there were huge holes in the pitch.
I went to kick Gary’s pass, there was a bobble and then the ball wasn’t there. It was an absolute freak and there was nothing I could do about it.”