Saturday, June 19, 2010

World Cup: Same Old England, and Au Revoir France

With all the long balls sailing over Emile Heskey's head, perhaps it is the jabulani that is sabotaging England's lofty World Cup hopes.

When Fabio Capello took charge, he voiced the intention to make England a passing side. The continued presence of Heskey testifies to the failure of that project. The sight of a big, physical centre forward triggers something primal in the underdeveloped mind of the English footballer. The ball grows a mouth and screams "HOOF ME!!!". It is primitive and self-defeating.

But what else can they do? The deficiencies of the likes of Gerrard are well-documented and are typical of English midfielders. To be fair, performances in qualifying suggest that a fit Gareth Barry would improve the situation somewhat. Owen Hargreaves' perennial injury nightmare is unfortunate. But England are completely lacking in creative players. John Giles says those instincts have been "coached out" of English football. He is surely right. Even if England were to rip up and bin the undeserved 'Golden Generation' tag, drop Lampard and/or Gerrard, who would take up the reins? These must be worrying times for English supporters.

Mangled leg notwithstanding, they must surely wish Aaron Ramsey was born in their patch of Britain. They must wish Jack Wilshere was a little older and wiser. They must wish Paul Scholes had been approached sooner to play in this World Cup, because old legs and all, he's forgotten more than Frank Lampard will ever know about being a proper midfield player.



Let's try not to gloat too much though, it just makes us look a petty little nation.

After all, we were not robbed of a place at the World Cup, but of a chunk of extra time and possibly a penalty shoot-out that we may well have lost anyway.

Overall, the underachievement of teams like England and France, coupled with the frailties of all the other fancied nations, suggests the likelihood of a strange World Cup. One that could feature a few more surprises, and even a victory for quite a mediocre, but well-organised team...

Seeing the French give up in the second half against Mexico, it was hard to escape the feeling that Ireland had qualified, they would be doing quite well...

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