You may notice that the timing of this post hasn’t been consistent with the others, it’s a day late. That day was a day of mourning as England slumped out to a lively Italian team.
After spending an appropriate amount of time going through denial (‘there shouldn’t even be penalties anymore’), anger (‘give me Ashley Young’s address now!’), depression (reliving every penalty knockout of my life), and acceptance (watching the ’66 final) – I am ready to give my verdict on yet another (deserved) quarter final defeat. Let’s stick with the numbered list theme, say fourteen. Hey that’s just how many players we used…
1. Joe Hart – Had a good tournament in terms of not conceding many, but still isn’t as good as everyone raves. Has hardly been tested throughout the tournament and then floundered when he was. Nasri’s goal was weak, was saved by the linesman against Ukraine, and suffered the same old problem against Italy that has always made me think he’s part of the spillage people. Great to see his confidence going into the penalties though.
Verdict – England have no one better and he could/should keep this position for the next 15 years, just stop going on about his greatness until he actually shows some.
2. Ashley Cole – He is still the best left back in the world. Still quick, still overlapping, still always in the correct position – you can’t ask for more. He got his penalty on target so can have no complaints about that.
Verdict – If he stays fit could become a super-veteran in the Road to Rio. Deserves to get his 100 caps.
3. Joleon Lescott – Pretty solid all round. Excellent in the air and pretty reliable, even got a goal. Can get a bit carried away on the ball but generally keeps it in check.
Verdict – Nearly 30, he isn’t the long term solution to replacing Rio and Terry but should keep the position for a while longer.
4. John Terry – Outstanding with consistency. Patriotic like a lion and firmer at the back than a So Solid Crew branded brick. Saved England against Ukraine, gives confidence to others around him, and made Balotelli question the meaning of life when he flew in front of his shot. If he could have only grabbed a goal from a corner in that game he could be the ultimate hero.
Verdict – Regardless of his impending court case, Terry should probably end his time with England now. Would be great to see him get involved in a coaching capacity though.
5. Glen Johnson – Seems to have divided opinions, by that I mean everyone hates him and I think he’s alright. Initially put down in public opinion by the fact he wasn’t the arrogant Kyle Walker or the man-baby Micah Richards, Glen has actually had a great tournament. Throughout the four games, he played stand-in sweeper for the other three numerous times and neutralised many threats this way. He tries risky passes and gives the ball away, but who didn’t against Italy.
Verdict – His chance to score against Italy was incredibly difficult and he isn’t a striker. A lot of shots didn’t happen because of Johnson, you don’t get that with Walker.
6. Ashley Young – Villain of the entire competition for me. Just how did he end up playing so badly in every game? Early on in the first game he put Milner through on goal then – nothing. He actually defended better than I thought he could but as for creating chances, he never looked like beating a man. I wasn’t enthralled by Young’s great start to his Man United career because I felt Rooney was the root of it. I stand by what I said then; Young will only play well if his link up is playing well.
Verdict – I don’t want him gone, but he needs to pull out his friendly form when it matters for England. Looked better when playing in the center.
7. Scott Parker – Parker did exactly what everyone expected. Ragdolled in front of the back four blocking shots, harrying opposition attackers, and looking increasingly lost the further past the halfway line he ran. He did it well for 75-80 minutes and then suddenly England never having the ball would really take its toll and he would run outta puff.
Verdict – It’s a shame his career took the path that it did. He could’ve been a regular for England but it’s time to call it quits now.
8. Steven Gerrard – ‘Captain Fantastic’ was just that for England’s group games. Deadly passing and crossing mixed with determined defending was a perfect example for his team. But all that energy took its toll on Gerrard and he found himself struggling against Italy. Unable to support in attacks and with legs cramping up, you would still have to tranquillize him before you could sub him off.
Verdict – England’s player of the tournament’s best performances have unfortunately come when his body could no longer keep up. Will be his last major competition but could bow out by getting England to Brazil.
9. James Milner – With Young being useless Milner showed his great love of symmetry. I’ve inquired why we play the Man City wideman to various fans and they all assure me it’s because he can defend as well. ‘as well’ as what? Running around like an inebriated bull can only do so much, and apparently that doesn’t include crossing or passing.
Verdict – Since when did England become so scared of their opponents that we only play one winger? Get him out and start attacking from the first minute not just when Walcott comes on.
10. Wayne Rooney – Oh Wazza… what happened? You didn’t play for five weeks because you were banned or you were in a coma? That new hair is doing you absolutely no favours when trying to head a ball that isn’t already on the goal line, and your feet could do with an implant of more toes so you could control the ball. Came in deep and passed well early on but that’s vanilla, especially when he pretty much lost the ball every time later on. Roy has even had to defend his fitness he played that poorly.
Verdict – The closest England has to a world class player he’ll be fine in the future and eager to prove himself on the big stage. We should never forget how he let us down with that red card all those months ago though.
11. Danny Welbeck – Was yet to convince me going into the game, as he often leaves an ant sized footprint on a game before Carroll takes his place. But he played well against Italy, winning balls, linking play, and even defending admirably. Still reminds me of Darren Bent in terms of goals though; he can run fast but needs you to put it on a plate before he’ll score.
Verdict – Great to know that England have players like this that can only get better. Will be interesting how his career and partnership with Rooney develops over the next two years.
12. 13. 14. Andy Carroll, Theo Walcott, Jordan Henderson – All had good tournaments. Perhaps the Liverpool pair were lucky to play considering their season (although Henderson had a good season) but they looked comfortable at this level for youngsters. Walcott unintentionally has made himself England’s impact sub forever and if he wants it to change he needs to improve his stamina. Carroll has something that no defence can deal with, he just needs a good supply line, and Henderson could end up being the next Scott Parker…
Verdict – All promising, especially if their club form improves. Maybe at the next tournament we’ll pass them the ball!
In terms of the game, England were second best. If I had to give reasons I would utter two words that make teams the world over shudder in fear – Andrea Pirlo.
On the face of it he represented England’s problem on the night. His seemingly simple movement found him always between the lines where he could produce incredibly dangerous plays with ease. The ultimate enemy of the 4-4-2, his deep lying position put him in a gap that England couldn’t cover.
It would drag Gerrard and Parker too far out, and the forwards too far back. For me it should have been Rooney’s job, you could even hear Neville shouting at Rooney to keep an eye on him but in the end he was given far too much influence. His Czechoslovakian penalty in the shootout embodied his experience, composure, and ludicrous stamina.
Pirlo represents England’s problem on a much bigger level too – they have no one like him. Some teams have one, some have benches full, we have none. And until we do, we are destined to always play the ‘bad football’, always be the underdog, and always go out on penalties.