As England bow out of their 8th major tournament quarter final with a shootout defeat over Italy, I examine what went wrong and future success.
Yet again, another penalty shootout signalled the end of another nation’s hopes for 23 English lions who were eliminated by Italy who were thrashed at the hands of a dominant Spain, winning their third successive major tournament.
You can draw comparisons between Spain and England, however. The status quo is for England to be beaten in now their eighth of 11 quarter finals as Spain haven’t broken the status quo in winning trophies. Six years ago it was the devastating quarter final loss to Portugal in Gelsenkirchen with the Portuguese proving on their own patch they can dispose of us with old enemies Argentina and Germany proving a thorn in any England manager’s back when it comes to penalties.
This leaves England with only a 14% success rate in penalties (meaning 1 in 7 for you fractional buffs), with that win coming on home soil in a Euro 1996 quarter final against then under-achieving Spain. How the tide has turned.
The previous villains Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, Gareth Southgate, David Batty, David Beckham and many from 2006 have welcomed both Ashley Young and Ashley Cole onto the hall of shame with open arms. Even Pizza Hut are attempting to sign Young and Cole up for a remake of their famous 1996 advert which featured Pearce, Waddle and Southgate.
Pizza, of course an Italian dish.
Ashley Cole confidently stepped up in Munich five short weeks ago, coolly slotted home a penalty for Chelsea but the white of the England shirt and the pressure of a nation got the best of the Chelsea defender who had performed well otherwise. His tame effort was saved by Gianluigi Buffon after Ashley Young’s thunderous effort was driven against the bar.
Young was one of only a couple of flops for England which I am sure is a refreshing thought for Hodgson going into their World Cup qualification campaign in September. The Manchester United winger played well and assisted team mate, Danny Welbeck in the pre-tournament friendly win over Belgium and played adequately in the 1-1 opener with France in Donetsk.
However, the expectations of the young left-winger may have got the best of him as he couldn’t convert his Premier League form for United onto the international stage when the tough certainly got going. When England fell behind 2-1 to Sweden in Kiev with an hour left, Young should have been seeing racing up and down that left wing busting a gut for his nation to claim back the win. However, that duty was handed to Theo Walcott who didn’t start a single game at the tournament, as he was being preferred to the defensive-minded James Milner.
Walcott asks himself “what do I need to do to get into the squad?”
You cannot fault Roy Hodgson’s reasoning behind selecting Milner instead of Walcott for the opener. Milner is good defensively and he did himself no harm in that department when the England plane landed in Luton shortly after the quarter final defeat.
Conversely, Franck Ribery is a completely different player to Yevhen Konoplyanka who provided no threat going forward in England’s concluding Group D contest against Ukraine in Donetsk. England scraped through with a 1-0 win thanks to good fortune, a seemingly blind assistant referee on the goal line and the long, luscious locks of Wayne Rooney.
Coming off the back of a scintillating 29 minutes where the pacey Arsenal winger in Theo Walcott changed the game and gave a groggy England who were reeling from two hammer blows from Thor-like Olof Mellberg that freshness and pace about their game that had become vacant due to the lethargic James Milner.
Walcott would set up the winning goal from Danny Welbeck after his own, bizarre contribution of fooling Andreas Isaksson and sticking the ball right down the middle from 25 yards out, amongst a crowded penalty area.
Milner was then inexplicably poor going forward, as expected out of his natural role as a central midfielder. In all but one of the matches which featured the closing out of the 1-1 draw against France, Walcott replaced Milner midway through each of the three remaining second halves.
This fact implies that Hodgson was using Walcott rather shrewdly as an impact player, running tired legs into the ground is what the Arsenal forward does best. The perfect example I can recall is a Champions League quarter-final at Anfield where Walcott was brought on and Arsenal netted twice thanks to the instrumental winger.
Straying away from the disappointments which could also include Wayne Rooney who didn’t look his best despite rattling home a screamer from around 37 millimeters out, Hodgson can reflect on the tournament with positivity.
Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard were resembled two of the three lions which was emblazoned on their own shirts, playing with pride and their hearts on their sleeve – a far cry of “Lampard and Gerrard can’t play together” during Capello and Eriksson’s reign.
I was slightly skeptical about Glen Johnson’s selection into the starting eleven ahead of Phil Jones and Micah Richards but the Liverpool full-back proved me wrong as well as the back five which also included Hart, Lescott, Terry and Cole. The defence needed stability after Terry was partnered with the likes of Ledley King, Matthew Upson and Jamie Carragher at the 2010 World Cup following captain Rio Ferdinand’s untimely injury prior to the tournament.
But with no Emile Heskey to hold the front line back, we looked refreshed with the in-form pairing of Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck. The increase in car window flags from the start of the tournament to the morning of June 24th proves to show the lack of faith the English public had in Hodgson and the side going into the tournament.
This lack of faith combatted with a swift comeback against Sweden and a win over Ukraine saw the pride of the nation rise again, the expectations increase, serving only to devastate us in a quarter final penalty shootout yet again.
On the other hand, Roy Hodgson can take solace from the fact that he has only been in the job eight weeks and he has already built a firm and stable platform for the qualification of the World Cup, a stark contrast to what was a calamitous campaign in South Africa two years ago.
As the banner declares – In Woy we Trust.