Tonight England played their final game in the World Cup having already been eliminated after two games. Despite picking up a point tonight, the change in personal still showed the same good and bad points as the first two games. Every fan up and down the country has given their views on where it has gone wrong and what we should have done. Here is my take ….
Our four starting defenders, Johnson, Cahill, Jakielka and Baines, have all come in for a lot of critism over their performances and the manner of which we have conceeded our four goals. The harsh facts are just all four of them are either not good enough and/or lack the experience at this level.
The huge debate over who went and started out of Cole/Baines/Shaw at Left Back dominated the squad announcement and maybe with hindsight Roy got it wrong. While Baines has been good at left back this season, he has nearly no international or champions league experience when the pressure is at its highest against the best players in the world. While going forward he is great he has was exposed in both games he played.
On the other side Glen Johnson has been perhaps the most criticized of all the England players and despite his club experience, for his country he looks out of his depth. Like Baines he is very good going forward as he showed with his assist last Thursday, but his positional play defensively is woeful. Unfortunately for England they was no obvious cover at right back in the squad and Jones who played their tonight, struggled.
Cahill and Jagielka were the obvious choice in the centre of defence, but despite Cahill’s experience with Chelsea at the top of the European game, both were unable to cope with Suarez/Cavani in two of the worlds best players and a horrible piece of defending, ultimately saw Suarez grab the winner when we met Uruguay.
While all of the four starting defenders in their own right are able to compete in top level Premier League games, all looked out of their depth and capable of making an error of judgement at any time. We have been fortunate in the last ten years to have, Cole, Ferdinand, Terry and Neville who rarely let us down, but this is the area now of most concern for Roy and England as we look to the future.
Steven Gerrard has had a glittering career with England and Liverpool in which he has been a fabulous player and I will acknowledge that as much as anyone, however maybe his time on the international stage is up.
A poor performance against Italy was somewhat covered up by all the media/fan blame being put on Rooney and Johnson, however on Thursday he was more in the spotlight. He had an unfortunate hand in both of Suarez goals and his late attempt to rescue the game mirrored the Liverpool v Chelsea game this season when he started having long range desperation shots.
Along with Rooney, Gerrard is our genuine world class player who has that bit of extra quality that the side need. However he is not the rampaging midfielder he once was, the alternatives in his position are limited though which may lead to him sticking around till the next European Championships.
For all the stick Rooney has received during the tournament, he still remains our best player and our most likely scorer. Despite the results, I was glad to see him get on the score sheet to finally get the World Cup duck off his back. I thought he had a good game against Uruguay, one of our better performers, however the difference between the two sides was shown on his display. Rooney is a very good footballer and has had the potential to be one of the best in the world, but he has never been able to live up to this and join the world’s elite, messi, ronaldo, ibrah, SUAREZ. Suarez and Rooney both had three decent sights of goal in the game, the Liverpool striker scored two goals Wayne scored one. Despite his improved performances Rooney will be disappointed that he didn’t come away with more than his tap in to show from the World Cup.
In a team which will inevitably evolve towards the younger players coming through, Rooney still has a role to play at 28. Rooney will continue to have his critics and is the obvious target when England fail, which is down to him being our one outstanding talent that we expect to produce consistently for us, but the fact remains he is is still a very good if not world class player.
Expectations on the youngsters
While the emergence of the bright young English talent is very promising it shows how much of a position we were in, in the first place having to rely on these youngsters. All the talk, including myself, was about Sterling and Sturridge after the Italy game and how they had the quality to tear Uruguay’s struggling defence apart. However the pressure on these young players, Sterling, Sturridge, Henderson, Lallana, Barkley , Wellbeck, Oxlaide- Chamberlain has been incredible as they have been the ones expected to pull England out of the hole we have been in for recent times.
Other countries have a handful of youngsters to support their established stars without having the expectation of a nation on their shoulders (unless your Neymar!)
Hopefully the world cup will not prove a scar on these young players shoulders who will carry our international team forward over the next period of time.
As a team we just weren’t good enough
As much as individual players can be picked out for our failures the overall answer as to why we are out of the world cup is our team as a whole is not good enough at this time. While the draw was tough, we were a long way short of challenging for the ultimate prize in football.
At one end of the pitch mistakes were made while at the other we looked good, but all too often indecisive and un clinical.
When it is looked back on for England, the 2014 World Cup will be remembered as the first time for a generation of fans that we crashed out in the group stages.
Being the eternal football optimist however I look it is as the start of something new. By the time the Euro’s comes round in two years these youngsters will hopefully have two more years top level football under their belt.
Best start planning that trip to France in two years!