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England Bottle It........!!!!!!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


England's dismal qualifying campaign came to a spectacular end at Wembley last stadium night as they crashed 3-2 at home to Croatia. Let's get facts straight, England were completely outclassed last night and if they had somehow blundered their way through, then it would have been a bigger screw job then when Brett Hart got stitched up by Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels in the WWF.

There is so much that I want to talk about, that this may take a while so bear with me and take a long deep breath.....here goes....

Let's look at what happened last week. Israel somehow managed to hand England a lifeline as they broke Russian hearts in the last minute(cue the usual chest thumping and English hype - Kofi). England's prayers had been answered and they needed a solitary point against a team who had already qualified...AT HOME. Its a bit like turning up to your driving test and realising that all you need to do to pass is drive in a straight line for 10 yards. You just wouldn't believe your luck that things could be made so easy for you.

Fast forward to tonights game and things got off to the worst possible start as Nico Kranjcar ghosted in to send a tepid shot towards goal. Scott Carson showed all the composure of a virgin as he let the ball skid off his body and into the net. He got down slower than a 90 year old trying to put on his slippers. Cue Motson wetting his pants. In conditions such as last night, it is imperative that you get your body behind the ball. Perhaps Carson had too much lubricant on his hands after tossing McClaren off, cos surely that is the only way he managed to find his way into the starting XI last night. Now, don't get me wrong, Paul Robinson is a joke, but with such an inexperienced defence McClown has to live and die by his decision to hand a goalie his competitive debut in such a big game. Many people thought that perhaps Carson may not have a lot to do tonight, but how wrong could they have been.

Things took another sorry twist for England as Prince/Symbol/Eduardo bamboozled the home defence to slot in Olic who rounded a stunned Carson to double Croatia's lead. The visiting fans were sent into ecstasy as they partied like it was 1999 (sorry). Cue Motson wetting his pants.

At times like this, you look for inspiration, for leaders. With Terry and Beckham absent, England did not really have anything on the pitch to give them that drive and that energy and so you look to the manager. So what exactly was McClaren doing when England were staring knockout in the face? Doing his best impression of Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins as he stood under his umbrella, that's what. If he wasn't doing that he was sitting their writing notes on his pad. What exactly was McClown writing? A list of possible jobs he could have when he inevitably has to depart? His list of post match excuses?

The whole country could see that having Crouch up front on his own was not working. A good manager, a manager with tactical nous would have spotted this instantly and made a change. What astonished me more was that Terry Venables was perched up in the box nowhere to be seen. Surely he should be in close contact with the manager to discuss what was going wrong? If Venables was all the way up there he may have been at his local tanning salon or working for a look a like agency as Ray Winstone's double cos he was certainly of no use at the game tonight

Motty even said himself at the time

"Surely someone like Mourinho would make a change instantly?"

And right there he had hit the nail on the head. Someone like Jose is not scared to make decisions. England knew after 14 minutes that they needed at least two goals, so that was the time to make a change, because they had never looked like scoring. However, nothing was done by McClown as England laboured towards half time with one of their most inept displays in recent years.

Credit must also be given to Croatia to be honest. After their capitulation in Macedonia they found their feet and played some delightful football at times. Modric is a real star in the making and at times they had England running around in circles in the middle of the park. Croatia made light of the conditions and used the skidding surface to their advantage with superb attacking movements which often cut England apart.

The half time analysis in the BBC studio was like a wake. Lineker and Shearer were so shocked that they looked like they had found out they were brothers. Wrighty was in such a state of shock that he couldn't even bother laying into England and he just started laughing at the desperate affair. Hansen, the wee lad, couldn't wait to get stuck in to England as he handed out an absolute roasting. The Scottish legend is brilliant at summing things up in one word statements e.g Power. Pace. Strength. However, none of these words could describe England at half time. So instead he went for

"Outclassed.Outfought.Outplayed"

End of story.

So, to the 2nd half, and McClaren had finally realised after nearly half an hour of concentration and thought that England needed to play with two strikers. On came Goldenballs and Jermaine Defoe to try and dig England out the huge whole they were in.

England immediately got the bit between their teeth and were handed a lifeline as the linesman awarded a penalty for a shirt tug on Defoe. At first look, Fat Frank looked like he took an excellent penalty to send the keeper the wrong way. On second look, the Croatia goalie was so far over to his left hand side before the ball was struck that it had a whiff of Bruce Grobelaar about it. Cue Motson wetting his pants.

However, things were not over as Carson made a stunning save as an unmarked Kovac stole in following a left wing corner. Things then took another twist as Wayne Bridge nearly got merked before spooning the ball onto his own crossbar. At this point, I thought to myself, this is like the Champions League Final again in 1999 when Man United were up against it and somehow made it through. I thought, this must be England's night, surely they must capitalise on the outrageous fortune that they had just received.

Well, minutes later it looked like they had done it as Beckham delivered one of the balls of the season towards Peter Crouch to brilliantly level and send Wembley into raptures. Cue Motson wetting his pants.

Now at this point, England had done the hard work and somehow got themselves into a qualifying position. However, like all England sides over the last few years they went to defensive mode. This is when the manager again should have took control and told his players to stop sitting back. Beckham, having set up Crouch for the equaliser was finding himself behind Micah Richards in the right back slot. England players were standing off all over the park as they looked to hold on to what they had instead of going for the jugular. Croatia again grabbed a foothold in the game and it was no surprise that Petric, who was allowed the freedom of the pitch, strode forward to slam the ball past a slightly unsighted Carson. Cue Motson wetting his pants.

England again looked for that elusive goal but apart from one shot by Darren Bent, never looked like getting it. In all honesty, they were lucky to escape without an even bigger hammering as their gung ho tactics left them hopelessly exposed at the back. In the latter stages England's sole tactic of hoofing the ball forwards in hope was excruciating to watch and almost as embarrassing as watching your parents snog each other in public.

England were a disgrace throughout this whole campaign to be honest and whenever they were faced with decent opposition they shown to be nothing less than average. However, despite all this, they had a golden opportunity to sneak in through the back door tonight and they somehow bottled it. McClown has said that he won't walk away. This has really got my goat, surely he must resign. Following Sven's legacy of 3 quarter finals, the least McClown had to do was match this for him to justify his appointment. However, for him to not even manage to get through this qualifying group means that McClaren has to tender his resignation to show he actually has a bit of dignity about him. If he doesn't I am going to round his house and sort him out myself.

As we reflect on tonight's shambles, feel free to let us know your comments and thoughts on this sorry qualifying campaign.

Sunil


Kofi's classic commentary moment

Motty - "say something Mark"

Lawro - "i can't"

Sums it all up really.

1 Responses:

Valderrama's Jockstrap Says:

I have to agree with most of what you say. The last 15 minutes was a joke of an attempt to get back into it. Players with lots of 'spirit' but no creativity, and they all looked knackered...not even had the Christmas period yet. I know the pitch was heavy but still....and what a disgrace of a pitch it was!! How do build a stadium with a retractable roof, that only goes from open to more open so more sun gets in!!