This weeks Offside View takes a look at what went wrong for England in South Africa.
At the ground in Bloemfontein on Sunday I heard them all. Then on the 11 hour coach journey back to the hotel I heard some more which were soon to be rivalled by the set wheeled out on the long flight back to Heathrow.
When it comes down to it though, the simple fact is we’re not good enough. As a nation we’re producing mediocrity conveniently rebranded and packaged as World Class.
The main line trotted out is that Fabio Capello got it all wrong. The players were unable to work under his system. He didn’t pick Joe Cole.
This I could understand more if he’d been trying to play some strange system concocted with Franco Baldini in the deepest darkest cellars of the FA. A strict 2-5-3 or adventurous 2-6-2 deploying double wingers on both flanks. This was 4-4-2 for Christ’s sake and for all its limitations it’s not exactly alien to English footballers.
On to the enigma that is Joe Cole. A walking definition of the phrase ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’. Never has a player’s stock risen so highly without them actually taking to the pitch. England’s one creative force had become almost Messi-like. Given the cameos provided he’d have been better served remaining on the bench and bottling more vitriol for his upcoming book.
Then we find out they’re not happy campers. They’re bored. I can see the point here to be honest. 23 young men all holed up in a luxury retreat with only football training to keep them occupied, having to watch game after game of live football, only interrupted by the odd coach trip to play a World Cup tie against a lesser nation. Must have seemed like a busman’s holiday, what kind of summer trip is that?
No wonder they were feeling down. I heard a rumour that an orphanage near Rustenberg denied the squad the opportunity to visit, on the grounds they didn’t feel they would be able to lift the spirits of the boys involved. Having watched the opening two games the orphans agreed there was nothing they could say to the players to make the situation seem brighter.
I mustn’t forget that the team were tired. The long Premier League season must have been a toil, having an astounding four more games than the Bundesliga and being leg crunching in its exact same game level as La Liga and Serie A. We can only be grateful those league’s teams removed our players obligations to take part in the closing stages of the Champions League or we may have been struggling to get bodies onto the plane.
To be fair though, England do play a massive number of friendly matches. In 2010 the poor lambs had to contend with a shocking number of three games. I have personally put in a complaint to FIFA as I believe the Mexican team must be cloned given their energetic play after having got through twelve in that time. Though Mexico has a different league calendar, they got through eight of those in May and June alone.
John Terry’s assertions, whilst attempting the cringe worthy coup, that he was ‘born to do this’ left me feeling that perhaps he should take up a career as a motivational speaker then as he certainly wasn’t born to defend, not at this level anyway. The steam billowing from the ears of ‘England’s True Captain’ as Joachim Low explained he had been targeted as a weakness would have been sufficient to create a new Spa treatment at England’s plush resort hotel.
Team England had to contend with more pressure than any other country. Enslaved by sponsors and the media they were forced to take up countless personal appearances and appear in numerous adverts prior to the tournament. Even Peter Crouch, who must have been virtually kidnapped by Pringles, was targeted.
At least we can comfort ourselves with the way our boys took the defeat. None of that ‘end of the world’ mentality for them, oh no! Cristiano Ronaldo went as far as to say he was ‘a broken man’ after Portugal’s exit. Other players were seen dropping to their knees in despair when their team were knocked out, we even saw tears on several occasions.
Our lads kept up the English spirit and got back to the hotel bar in less time than it takes Matthew Upson to track back from the halfway line. Makes you proud to be English.