In Italy’s case, with sheer sterility, in France’s in sheer ignominy. There may as if rumoured have been tensions in the England dressing room, but nothing to match the sheer anarchy and bitterness of what happened in the French camp. You might say however that all three managers failed. Despite the aroma of sycophancy which protected Fabio in the English media, I – who had known him and had largely admired him since 1973 as player, critic and coach, was never impressed by his stewardship.
There was the bizarre case of what I called Beckhamitis, of Capello’s almost perverse use, albeit for shortish spells which still brought a cheap cap every time, of a player so clearly past his sell by date. Thus wasting time and blocking the way to the several younger, faster candidates for that position.
Nor right to the horribly bitter end could Capello come to terms with the dualism in central midfield of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard; mistakenly exiled on his right foot to the left wing. It was good to see certain ex football stars insisting, as I had long been doing, that the ideal position for Gerrard should have been the one he fills for Liverpool; just behind the centre forward.
Who knows? Perhaps that would have galvanised the bewilderingly passive Rooney, from whom so much as legitimately expected, not least on his Manchester United form, to which he had headed heading power to his many other talents.
Rooney was the great failure, the bewildering anonymity, of England’s doomed World Cup and I don’t see, even if he didn’t put Gerrard behind him, how you could blame Capello for that. Heaven knows what was going on in Rooney’s troubled head, but it was surely there that the trouble resided.
Moreover, Capello could hardly be blamed that England could produce no equivalent of the coruscating Ozil, a sublime playmaker who can score goals so well; though it might have been politic to mark him closely. Since Paul Gascoigne for all his off field eccentricities was wonderfully capable of turning any game with a moment of brilliance, there has been no obvious English playmaker in sight, though Joe Cole might just possibly have filled the role had club and country allowed him to play where he originally did and where he now says he wants to play again; in the centre rather than out on the flanks.
Moreover, Capello could hardly be blamed for the absolute poverty of England’s central defence. The argument that had Lampard’s off-the-crossbar goal not been scandalously disallowed, England would not have been forced to come forward and thus leave the Germans space is fallacious. By the time Germany were 2-0 up they could well have had another couple of goals, such was the basic insufficiency of John Terry and Matthew Upson, whatever the merits of his fine headed goal.
Again, Fabio could hardly be impugned for the absence of the injured Rio Ferdinand. Ideally he would not be on his way with now more money in his pocket, as would have been the case had the FA not cravenly panicked at the possibility of losing him to Inter and scrapped the clause allowing either party to terminate the agreement.
The French hierarchy inexplicably reappointed as manager the plainly inadequate Raymond Domenech who somehow or other, quarrelling with Zidane en route, had got them to the 2006 World Cup Final only for his team to sink like a stone two years later, in the finals of the European tournament. His crudely insensitive approach exacerbated the situation with a squad of rebellious and dissident players. Gorcouff the young Bordeaux midfielder, admittedly sent off in the second game, was a particular victim, who also incurred the hostility of a disruptive Franck Ribery.
And when, in the dressing room of the lost match against Mexico at half time, Domenech asked the eternal rebel, Nicolas Anelka, to move out of the middle, he was greeted with a volley of foul abuse. When this found its way into the public domain there was a witch hunt among the players to find the leaker. But despite Domenech being ready to make peace, a defiant Anelka was packed off home.
Marcello Lippi should surely have heeded the warning signs about his fading team in last year’s Confederations Cup, in South Africa. Beaten by Egypt, thrashed by Brazil. Fabio Cannavaro at 36 had plainly, losing his pace, become an incubus. Del Piero and Francesco Totti alas, irreplaceably, had gone. Two Fantasisti who might have made the difference.
Antonio Cassano and 19-year-old Mario Balotelli, were cautiously left at home. Centre forward Quagliarella, so dangerous when at long last brought on in the second half against Slovenia, should have been used from the start.
Lippi insisted he took full responsibility for such failure, though lacking his sole playmaker Andrea Pirlo, injured, till the 56th minute of the Slovenia game, was hardly a help. He at once made a difference; but not enough.Like Angler´s Mail blog? Subscribe to our magazine and you will be able to access our latest comprehensive content!