England v Croatia - 21/11/2007 - Wembley
The weather was dismal, pitch below was dreadful and the performance worse.
The team was wrong, the system was wrong, the attitude was wrong. Paul Robinson is out of form, so is dropped. Fair enough. David James is playing very well at the moment for Portsmouth - but is left on the bench. A rookie goalkeeper, yet to make even a save for England, is pushed into this vital match. Hello? The midfield again has Lampard and Gerrard together, diluting the effectiveness of both. David Beckham may not be fully match fit, but just check how many direct assists he has in recent matches for England. More than anyone, by a long way. We play 4-3-3 (or 4-5-1) when we all know our strength is playing 4-4-2. Croatia subsequently have the midfield to themselves, as we have no-one closing them down. We were, basically, all over the place. And the defence was, well, basic to say the least. Up front, Crouch had no-one to lay the ball off to. MaClaren & his team realised this all to late.
The second half was (slightly) better for a short period. Defoe won the penalty, soft, yes, but he was in there - and Beckam provided (again) the killer pass for the 2nd one. We should have then gone on to win the match, so what went wrong? Attitude. We sat back - we let them come on to us. Why? Where was the passion? It was like, "we've done what we had to do - now just sit tight". How many times have we seen this before? At the end of the day, it was just not good enough. The manager got it wrong (again) and had to change things around - too many players did not perform as well as we all know they can - but the most disappointing thing of all was that we seemed to lack leadership and passion, both on and off the pitch. We were given a second chance by Israel, a third chance when we drew level, and still managed to blow it. There is some serious thinking to be done - and it should start with the FA admitting that they got it wrong once again.
What would other countries have done in a similar position? Could you imagine Italy playing such an open match. I think not!
Arsene Wenger was asked recently if he thought the influx of foreign players was responsible for the downturn in standards in English football and I heard him say that were we to examine the results of the English team prior to the arrival of foreign players we would find that in truth, very little has changed. The mere fact that so many foreign players are playing in the premier league, should have had all the bells ringing at the FA in relation to the fact that our academy's were not then producing the youngsters who could have filled the places now occupied by the foreign players. Football has changed, it's no longer about sport in it's truest sense, it is now solely about money. Managers jobs and reputations are based on results and as such they draft in players from wherever they can if they consider them to be of the right calibre.
We got exactly what we deserved from this competition.
NOTHING ! (Diddly squat!)
Perhaps the current Football setup should take a leaf out of the England Rugby Team !
p.s. Who decided in their infinite wisdom to play an American Football mach just before a vital International Match at Wembley?