England had everything going for them this World Cup. They had players available from the so-called ’golden generation’ and a brand new manager who had a great resume and enough time to get England’s team ready to lift the 2010 World Cup. However, England crashed out of the World Cup last night after losing 4-1 to a relatively inexperienced German side. This 4-1 defeat is England’s heaviest defeat at a World Cup after having outdone a 4-2 loss to Uruguay in 1954. So, I am going to try and figure out what went wrong for England and Fabio Capello?
England’s qualification run saw them win 9 out of 10 matches with 34 goals scored and only 6 conceded. It filled everyone with great hope and when England beat Croatia who had ended our Euro dreams 9-2 over two games, we just couldn’t contain our optimism.I mean, after all we played Ukraine, Croatia, Andorra, Belarus and Kazakhstan and none of them are really major footballing powers. If England couldn’t even win against them, how were we ever planning to win the World Cup? I think our success in qualification matches deluded us and made us believe we were better than we actually were. The great defensive record against those nations was misguiding and made us put more faith in our defense than we should have. So, our problems began when we started glorifying a team for winning matches that we should have won anyway.
2. Fabio Capello’s Team Selection
Fabio Capello got the final 23 team selection completely wrong on three counts. Firstly, in true Italian fashion Capello went around constructing a squad made of very experienced players. Unfortunately, he confused age with experience which explains why Fabio picked 28-year-old Shaun Wright Phillips over the 21-year-old Theo Walcott, although Walcott already had the experience of being at a World Cup.
Secondly, Capello despite having announced very early on, that he would only select those players who had been playing and in good form for their clubs to South Africa, ended up selecting out of form star-players. He chose to take Emile Heskey who scored only 6 goals for his club in the last season over Sunderland’s Darren Bent who scored 24. Similarly, he chose Matthe Upson who has had an indifferent season for West Ham over Michael Dawson who has been good for Tottenham Hotspur.
Thirdly, Capello took a massive risk in taking already injured players/player not a 100% fit with him. He named Gareth Barry who was struggling to get fit from an injury ahead of fit and in-form Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker. Ledley King is another one of those players who is injury-prone and well, he got injured again. Capello’s decision to take Heskey was made even worst when he fell on Rio Ferdinand and injured the skipper. Rio Ferdinand himself was hardly available to Manchester United this season because of his injury troubles. So, Capello basically chose old, injured,out of form albeit experienced players for the World Cup in South Africa. Sometimes the only things experience is good for against pace, talent and freshness is tell you, you aren’t going to win this! Unfortunately Capello like England managers of the past couldn’t put together an England team and ended up naming a collection of star players.
Fabio Capello came with the reputation of being a hard taskmaster and we all thought that was exactly what the spoilt English footballers needed. However, being a strict and opinionated doesn’t necessarily have to mean being dictatorial. Sometimes it seemed like Capello wanted to do what he wanted to do simply because he wanted to do it, without caring how it helped/hindered or affected his team. He treated the footballers like children where his duty was to control and discipline them. Sometimes, even parents think a certain thing is good for their child but after a discussion with the child, realise they were wrong. The key word here being ‘discussion’, Fabio should have discussed with a his team a lot more, I think. For example, he felt that it was best if the goalkeepers didn’t know who was going to be playing more than 2 hours before a game but may be Robert Green, David James and Hart would have felt a lot more comfortable knowing. They probably would have liked to have more time to prepare mentally. Similarly, may be some of the players would have liked their families to be with them in South Africa, that probably was what how some of them needed to relaxed, especially when things hadn’t gone as well as they had hoped in the first 2 games.
Also, when John Terry and some other senior members of the team decided to talk to Fabio Capello about what they felt would be good for the team, Fabio, instead of getting his big ego in the way should have listened to the players suggestions. He may not have implemented them but he should have allowed them a fair hearing. John Terry was wrong in telling the media about it, however his intentions were good. Capello should not have reacted the way he did and should have been the bigger person and not made John Terry apologise for it. If Capello just stepped off his high pedestal and really worked with the team as a team player and not as unbearable boss, England would have had a better chance of qualifying.
Also, I think after Capello could have done to learn English wwhen he took up the job as England coach to communicate better with the team.
4) Team Selection and Tactics on the day
Despite all the above problems,England quite amazingly, still made it to the last 16. We would have beaten Germany and gone on to the quarter-finals too. However, once again, Capello got his team selection and tactics completely wrong. Serbia had already shown us how to beat Germany but we stuck to a 4-4-2 formation with Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry in the middle. Both of whom did not know whether they were supposed to attack or defend and Barry lacked the fitness and pace to get back from an attacking position to defend, leaving England with a hole in the middle.
The Germans on the other hand moved the ball ever so well and no one in the England squad really knew whether it was Milner or the full backs or Gerrard who were supposed to get back to defend. So time and again, we attacked the German goal unsuccessfully, didn’t know who was staying back to protect our goal and got caught on the counter by pacy Germans. What is even more ridiculous is that the Germany’s strategy to score against us was very obvious in the first half but Fabio simply refused to learn from his mistakes and change.
In second half, Fabio could have packed the mid-field with 5 men, let Wayne Rooney to play where he plays best for Manchester United, up front and have other players support him. As the game went on, I felt Fabio Capello just gave up, he took off Jermaine Defoe and brought on Emile Heskey, as if, we needed yet another slow player on the pitch. I don’t know why Capello even bothered to take Peter Crouch with him to South Africa, when clearly, he had no intention of playing him. A lot has been said about England’s bad defending in the game against Germany and I have to agree we were rubbish but in defense of John Terry, he wasn’t playing where he plays best and the defense got absolutely no help from the midfield and were left badly exposed too often.
5) FIFA’s Silly Technology Phobia
The incredible thing about our match against Germany is, that despite getting everything wrong from the selection of players to our tactics and being 2 goals down, England still found the net through Matthew Upson and then Frank Lampard hit the goal post and the ball crossed the line but the referee didn’t see it. Had the referee not gotten that decision wrong, England would have equalised in the first half itself and gone into the half-time break with momentum on their side. Then probably, Fabio would have strengthened the defence and we might just have won this game. Unfortunately, Sepp Blatter and FIFA are strangely more scared of technology than they are of ridicule and this bad decision by the referee is sadly what proved to be the last punch that knocked us out of the World Cup 2010.