Monday, June 28, 2010

Great Expectations

England's World Cup Flop: Much Ado About Nothing

Lampard's non-goal: convenient scapegoat for a nation's woes?

I'm always amused by England's love-hate relationship with its national football team, especially when the squad flounders against arch-rivals like Argentina and Germany. As you can imagine, the British press is calling for the heads of the players and their high-salaried Italian coach Fabio Capello in the wake of England's dreadful showing at the 2010 World Cup and especially after Sunday's humilating 4-1 trouncing at the hands of Die Mannschaft.

As always, Blimey must have controversy surrounding any defeat to their arch-rivals, be it Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" in 1986 or Frank Lampard's goal-that-wasn't-a-goal in this past Sunday's loss to a German team that keeper David "We're a better team than Germany" James famously described as being inferior to England (Ha! - Begs the question of many goals "Calamity" James would have let in against a "good" Deutschland squad!).

While the Limeys bemoan the fact that Lampard's disallowed goal (which bounced off the crossbar and was clearly two meters inside the goal), would have evened the score at 2-2 and changed the flow of the game, lost in the discussion is the fact that the Three (Cowardly) Lions dug themselves a 2-0 hole to start with, or the fact that Germany made the Lampard goal a moot point with two additional second half scores. As well as German defender Arne Freidrich's spot-on karmic connection when he said sometimes luck evens out, referring to England's lone World Cup triumph in 1966 at Wembley against West Germany when Geoff Hurst's crossbar shot was ruled to have crossed the line when many say it was far from conclusive. (And speaking of that game, how cool was it that West German goalie Hans Tilkowski was wearing one of those Benny Hill/Bon Scott/Andy Capp "old man" caps?) Paybacks are a bitch, no? (Alles klare, Herr Lampard?)

Hurst "caps" off a Blimey victory in the '66 World Cup

Watch Geoff Hurst's 1966 World Cup "goal" against West Germany:

A slight digression: Of course, the missed goal once again brought up the topic of FIFA adding "instant replay" video, but FIFA prez Sepp Blatter is a notorious Old School stick-in-the-mud fuck-mook traditionalist, so that's a non-starter issue (because it makes too much sense!) fact, FIFA has already taken down the official video of the goal, leaving it to fans to post low-quality viddy of it on the Internets (as shown below).

In his book Why England Lose (renamed Soccernomics in the US) author Simon Kuper categorizes the outcry over things like Maradona's handball or Lampard's nullified goal as "Phase 3" of "Why England Loses" or "The English Conclude That the Game Turned on One Freakish Bit of Bad Luck That Could Happen Only To Them."

The complete phases of English World Cup Delusion include:

1. Pretournament - Certainty That England Will Win the World Cup
2. During the Tournament England Meets a Wartime Foe
3. The English Conclude That the Game Turned on One Freakish Bit of Bad Luck That Could Happen Only To Them.
4. Moreover, Everyone Else Cheated

Bottom line: At the end of the day, this England squad just wasn't as good as it was hyped up to be. (They looked rather tired, as well.) And as far as their coach Fabio Capello? Despite his sparkling C.V., sartorial spiffyness, and Italian suaveness...color me unimpressed. He simply didn't field the best mix of players, he stubbornly stuck to a questionable 4-4-2 formation, and couldn't adapt when it was obvious that his approach and selections weren't working.

And what's with England's recent self-loathing when it comes to passing over British coaches in favor of European imports? I'm with Sky/Fox Sports analyst and former Scotland national striker Andy Gray when he points out that you never see the other traditional European football powers - France, Germany, Italy, Spain - importing foreign coaches to lead their national teams. After all, England always boast that the Barclay's English Premiere League is the world's best, so why is it that the world's best footballing nation can't find a native son to helm their squad, one that knows the players, speaks their language, perhaps even a former player like Alan Shearer who played with them? (And who cares about coaching pedigree - "genius" gaffers Capello and Sven Ericson have flopped at the national level while a borderline lunatic like Diego Maradona has his team through to the Quarterfinals; I mean, how hard can it be? I'm no genius, but even I figured out that defender Ledley King's knee was suspect - so why include him on the team when he's only going to contribute 45 minutes before hobbling out to see the physio???)

"Don't tell me that there are no Englishmen capable of going out there," Gray told "I think there are many out there: Glenn Hoddle, Alan Shearer, Roy Hodgson. Maybe Roy Hodgson with David Beckham as his number two to learn and four years from then, maybe, to take it on - that kind of thing. But if you want experience don't tell me Harry Redknapp couldn't do this job."

Hmmm, I think "Harry Houdini" is too smart to take the England job, especially when things are going so swimmingly at Champions League-qualifying Tottenham at the moment, but point taken. And in the heat of the moment, Harry Redknapp himself weighed in for a English manager of the national team. "Who wouldn't want to manage England?" Harry asked the UK's Daily Mail.

I think England's anti-homegrown bias stems from its failure to qualify for the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship under former national gaffer Steve "Wally with a Brolly" McClaren. (Here's Andy Gray's full analysis from FA should sack Fabio Capello and appoint an Englishman.)

And I have to agree with Metro Sport's England player ratings for this campaign - England World Cup squad: Player ratings for the entire campaign - though I don't blame Wayne Rooney's poor performance entirely on him. Rooney was a goal-scoring machine for Manchester United this year playing as a lone striker, but 4-4-2 fanatic Fabio paired him with a past-it/paceless Emile Heskey (who was worthless throughout the four matches) until he finally tried a more effective Jermaine Defoe up top, but it was a case of like cancelliing out like (two small forwards)...why not the towering 6-7 Peter Crouch, who is a prolific goal-scorer at the national level, with Rooney playing just off/behind him (it's a total mystery why Capello only utilized Crouch for a scant six minutes against Algeria)(and for that matter, it's a total mystery why Man U midefielder Michael Carrick played a total of 0 minutes!)...why not captain Steven Gerrard in his more familiar central role instead of out of position on the left wing? Why an ineffective holding midfielder in Gareth Barry and why James Milner on the right wing? Why not more Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Aaron Lennon as wingers? Why start a still ill Milner in the USA game? And why, for that matter, start an inexperienced Robson Green in that game? Hard questions that Fabio will have to answer. (Not to mention his stripping Terry of the captaincy following his sex scandal - a scandal which forced Capello to choose between Terry and Wayne Bridge; given Terry's so-so performances since, maybe Bridge would have been the better choice?)


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12:22 AM  

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