Sunday, July 02, 2006

The soap opera that is English football

I have started to recover from my emotions of yesterday and have started to refocus my attentions to the upcoming semi finals (I think both games will be beyond tense, all four teams know each other very well). But that is for another rant. This one is reserved for the soap opera that is English football. Today we received the news that David Beckham was stepping down as England captain, but still wanted to play for the three lions. Thus marks the end of a turbulent time for England.

When Alan Shearer retired from international football many wondered who would inherite the arm band, in stepped Becks. Much to the surprise of many an observer. Beckham was always seen as a bit of an impetuous player. World's of talent but not the best head on his shoulders, see his silly red card in the 1998 world cup. While many would critize Becks, I think that overall he was a good skipper for England. He never shyed away from the difficult questions. He demonstrated an ability to pull his team up, see the remarkable direct free kick goal against Greece in qualifiers. He stepped up in Euro 2004, providing service for the England goal against France. He missed a vital PK that game but never gave excuses, and still took (and missed) the first PK against Portugal in the 1/4 finals...did Lampard ever look like he even wanted to shoot during Saturday's PK round? Far from his best in this world cup he still had a hand in 3 key goals for England, much more than can be said for Lampard, Gerrard or Rooney. We might have seen the last of David Beckham at a World Cup, he will be 35 for the South African version, we might have seen the last of Becks in an England kit. But we cannot blame him or slam him for this tenure as England skipper. As a frenchman, it pains me, but I must tip my cap to his run. He did not bring glory to England, but that was not for lack of effort.

Now to who I think should be blamed for another sub par run in a major tournament - Sven. Mr Erickson rode into the England job with quite a reputation...not sure deserved: one great year at Lazio. He was suppose to bring another start to the 3 lions kit, or at least a European Championship. Instead he brought 3 straight 1/4 games - WC 2002, EC 2004 and WC 2006. This last run was the most perplexing. He picked a curious squad, one which would rely on many fortunate turns inorder to be effective. I know that Ledley King was injured, but he never really had a system in place for his midfield. Rather he put together the 4 "best" english midfielders without regard for thier individual strengths. Our good friends from ESPN stated that the English midfield might be the best in the world during their opening round game against Paraguay....maybe by name but not by system. With Lampard, Gerrard, Cole and Beckham starting who would be tasked with doing the dirty work or defending, tackling, and destroying the opposing team's midfield creativity? Supposed Gerrard was tasked with this....hmmmm curious. Just because he is a world class midfield for Liverpool, but he is that because of his vision and offensive talents, does not mean he can all of a sudden become a defensive genius. Not sure, but if Domenech asked Makelele to be the maestro and run the offensive not sure he could do it...but ask him to defend and he is world class. Last time I checked, I think the only midfielder that can play multiple roles at a world class level might be Essein from Ghana...Erickson allowed a disjointed midfield play together where there was not linkage between the backs and the attack.

Then there is the question of strikers - Owen, Rooney, Walcott, and Crouch. The first two, while both world class, were coming off major injuries. The fact that Rooney even played was a minor miracle. Walcott could not even get time with his club Arsenal, and Crouch...well Crouch to me is useless (although he did an admirable job as the solo striker against Portugal, much to my amazement). Not sure you should enter a tournament with your scoring hopes pinned on two players coming off major injuries, a teenager who has not even played agains Birmingham City let alone Portugal, and stork of a striker that has yet to prove he can be the next Alan Shearer. Once Owen left with another injury, Genius Sven was left with three...when Rooney was sent off he was down to two able bodied strikers. Not sure what England would have done had they gotten past Portugal. Started Crouch with Walcott to make his first potential cap in the World Cup semifinals????? I think Sven would have looked slighty more intelligent had he selected Emile Heskey for this team!

England must now rebuild and look to the Euros. Owen's career might be done with another injury. Beckham's england career might be over. Rooney, while incredibly talented, is also incredibly stupid. I know he is still young, but he is not young when it comes to professional football, he needs to show a little more intelligence before he will become the force that his destiny appears to allow him. Can England play with Gerrard and Lampard together in the midfield. They never looked comfortable together. Maybe because each is used to having midfield cover in the forms of Hamann and Riise for Gerrard and Makelele and Essien for Lampard, which allows them to create and play without too much care about back tracking to defend...something they cannot afford not to do for England. The one player whose stock rose, much to my surprise, was Owen Hargreaves. He was all over the place against Portugal, even in the extra time he was the only one, on either side, that appeared to want to play and run.

The saga that is English football remains. Once again the memories of 1966 grow in folklore. 40 years and counting is a difficult pill to swallow for the country that invented the game.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Great defensive struggle England showed courage down a man and their defense was superb...Hargreaves even better but alas someone has to score where was Frankie Lamps?When he came up to take his penalty fear was written across his face.It was palatable...but Gerrard if he makes his penalty England probably wins and his was attempt was equally feeble.Terry,both Coles,Lennon and Owen Hargreaves are the only English players to escape unscathed and in Hargreaves case he shocked me with his aggressive tackling,inspired play and overall fitness... a revelation really.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Great defensive struggle England showed courage down a man and their defense was superb...Hargreaves even better but alas someone has to score where was Frankie Lamps?When he came up to take his penalty fear was written across his face.It was palatable...but Gerrard if he makes his penalty England probably wins and his was attempt was equally feeble.Terry,both Coles,Lennon and Owen Hargreaves are the only English players to escape unscathed and in Hargreaves case he shocked me with his aggressive tackling,inspired play and overall fitness... a revelation really.

GFC said...

Agreed, the English defense really stepped up. Especially Cole and Ferdinand, they both played inspired defense. Lennon gave Portugal, even a man up, tremendous amount of trouble. I would have almost brought in Walcott rather than Crouch. His speed might have sprung a late goal. No way the Portugese could have handled both Walcott and Lennon and their pace.

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