Thursday, November 22, 2007

No England At Euro 2008

Despite Israel's Help, McClaren's Men Stumbled At Crucial Time

Euro 2008 Qualifier

England 2 - 3 Croatia


ENG - Lampard (pen 51), Crouch (65);

CRO - Krancjar (8), Olic (14), Petric (77);

With an imminent death sentence delayed, glimmers of hope filled the hearts of the Englishmen after seeing Russia haphazardly lost to Israel on Saturday. The supposed inevitable was avoided in much of a fortunate manner seemingly...

But England's chance of qualifying for next summer's European Championship was finally guillotined in front of their home fans after an abject 3-2 lost to Croatia, who will be heading over to Austria/Switzerland as the group leader.

The cold winter rain fell on the muddled heads of the English players as a packed Wembley watched in horror. Chanting like a mantra prior to the match, players came out to say that they'll go on for the kill and secure qualification.

But with a 4-5-1 formation set out, who truly believes they're not playing for a draw?

The disastrous 2-0 defeat in Croatia months ago still seemed to be a spectre, haunting the English players and just as Paul Robinson comically 'air-kicked' a Gary Neville backpass, Scott Carson continued the tradition of England's 'goalkeeping-killing act'.

With the freezing rain all over the sticky Wembley pitch, it adds an extra tilt to the game. For a 22 year old Carson, what a night to make his competitive debut for England. It took Croatia only 8 minutes to found him out sadly.

Confidence bruised and broken, his back line didn't do him any good either. Minutes later, a two-men breakaway was enough to find the chink in England's defence. Arsenal's Eduardo drew the entire defence to him before making a defence splitting pass for the magnificent Ivica Olic to round Carson and send shock wave across the nation.

Hopes seemed lost and difficult words must have been exchanged in dressing room during half time. 'Nothing to lose now' was on McClaren's mind when he sent on Defoe and Beckham on for a disappointing Shaun Wright-Phillips and the out-of-place Gareth Barry.

It surely was a gamble. But it has been a gamble all along.

England did find their way back early in the second half through a magnanimous penalty after substitute Jermaine Defoe was adjudged to have his shirt pulled inside the area. Up step Frank Lampard and the Chelsea man made no mistake.

Beckham then proved his point when he assisted Peter Crouch in scoring the all important equaliser, just enough to send England through to the finals. Crouch controlled the ball with his chest brilliantly before slotting it past Stipe Pletikosa.

He turned out to be one of the few players whom escaped with any sort of credits and he deserved the goal to be fair.

But England's fate was penultimately sealed late in the game when substitute Petric hit a fearsome shot with his left and it whizzed past the diving Scott Carson. Croatia's never-say-die attitude epitomised.

They gave so much when so little mattered. Probably riled after the moronic England fans jeered their national anthem, the Croatians brought the English nation to the ground, in shame. Past glory was all that it is and now the bare truth is staring right in the face of McClaren, his players and the FA.

The cleverness and deft movement of the Croatian outsmarted the English, who are all about blood and thunder. Traditionally a team that plays at break-neck speed, England players doesn't possess the required technical abilities and brains to execute it.

All we saw was the old route one football of Wimbledon back in the early 90s. Aimless 40 yard balls or lumping balls towards Peter Crouch. There was no flair and there was no guile. Blood and thunder couldn't get them any further.

Failure to qualify this time could also be a good news to many England fans as now it is a possibility that the English FA will have a long hard look on the organisation structure and address the obvious flaws that had been on cover since God-knows when.

McClaren might have his brolly to shield the rain from him but it wouldn't be able to withstand the flak he's going to get from the English media and public. It might not be his fault totally but much responsibility must be shouldered by the grinning one.

Expect him to be sacked in an hours time.

England Player Ratings:

Carson (4/10) - You thought Robinson was bad....Like a rabbit caught in the headlight

Bridge (2) - Shambolic. One of the worst performance I've EVER seen
Lescott (4) - Was all over the place yet not found when needed
Campbell (5) - Didn't marshal his defence well at all
Richards (4) - All running but with no effect. Poor positioning sense

Cole (4) - Plenty of trickery as usual but no guile and no thrust. 'Owned' by Corluka
Gerrard (4) - Hollywood balls and all, the captain did nothing inspiring...Poor
Lampard (5) - Didn't notice him until stepping up for the penalty. Credit for not bottling it
Barry (3) - Fish out of the water. Found out. Passing was abysmal and fail to offer protection to defence.
Wright-Phillips (4) - Running head-on like a headless chicken. Poor delivery and finishing.

Crouch (7) - Only player to walk off Wembley with head held high. Scored a good goal and worked extremely hard. And to think he was boo-ed by the England supporters a year ago...

Beckham (7) - With him on, there is no lack of energy and commitment.
Defoe (5) - Didn't threaten the Croatian defence other than the penalty incident
Bent (5) - Should have taken the half chance

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