I don’t want this to turn into a “England” blog, but once they are knocked out of the World Cup, that will be that, so I might as well say what I want to say now while I have the chance.
In the cold light of day, and after sleeping on it, I have to say that not only was the result one of the worst in years for England, but the performance was as bad as any I can remember in decades. Yes we have lost games in the past against inferior opponents. There have been too many times we haven’t qualified for the World Cup and the Euro Championships, but this game was different.
It was different because not only did England not beat an Algerian team that has only won 1 of 7 games leading up to this game, but the most shocking thing to me, (and this seems to be taking second place to the result) is that we were outplayed by Algeria. They outworked us, they had more and better goal chances and even though England had the edge in possession, Algeria seemed to control much of the game.
Now I know the stats say that England outshot Algeria by 15-13, but take a look at the game and you will see that many of England’s shots were harmless efforts from well outside the box. When you break it down to times where each team looked threatening, England were left wanting. Poor ESPN had to really struggle to come up with a couple of lame clips they used as a poor excuse for England’s highlights.
I can remember bad results in the past. The 2006 World Cup is a good example. I don’t think England put together one good performance…just managing to scrape a result against inferior opponents until they ran into a Portugal team that was depleted of many of their starters due to previous yellow and red cards. But I can’t really remember a time when England were actually outplayed by an inferior opponent.
Algeria’s only win in the last 7 games was a 1-0 win over the tiny United Arabe Emirates. 3-0 losses to Ireland and Serbia were other efforts.
So how did England get to this point? Well I have written in the past few weeks about some of the reasons England don’t do well at World Cups. The main one being, our players are pretty worn out after playing a hectic season in the most physical league in the world (EPL). But although that is a factor, you have to look deeper than that.
The bottom line is, we just don’t seem to have the quality of players we once had. Let’s break it down.
Players at or close to their peak - Rooney, Lampard, Johnson and Terry.
Players who are past their best – Gerrard, Carragher and Cole.
Players who wouldn’t get in the team in the past because they weren’t good enough - James, Lennon, Wright-Phillips and Heskey.
Gareth Barry kind of fits into all three categories.
So we only have four players who are good international players that are close to their peak. Rooney is probably fatigued from the EPL season and accumulation of seasons. Lampard never really performs well for England. Johnson is okay and Terry is doing okay but personal problems might be affecting him somewhat. So even our four quality players aren’t at their best.
Gerrard, Carragher and Cole are all quality players but have seen better days. Gerrard is one of my favorite players but cumulative seasons in the EPL are taking their toll and this past season was well below par for him. I’m afraid, he is finished as the powerful player he was. Carragher shouldn’t even be in the squad and the fact that he is shows the lack of talent available to choose from. Cole is simply filling space without being a weakness.
The others are simply not good enough. Heskey for example has scored just 7 goals in 60 international games for England and can’t even keep a regular spot in the Aston Villa team. Compare that to the likes of Linekar, Mariner or Shearer. It’s not even close.
So on reflection, even if we had our better players on form and playing well, we still would have a tough time matching up against the stronger teams in South Africa. No, I think the bottom line is we just don’t have the quality of players we are used to. And I think we need to accept that and make things easier on ourselves as fans and reduce our crazy expectations.