Oh, dear! Are Fabio’s birds coming home to roost? As one who has known and largely admired him both as player and coach these many years, I’ve never really wanted to join in the somewhat sycophantic chorus which has responded to him since he took the England post.
Above all, I was disenchanted with his absurd and astonishing case of Beckhamitis, festooning Beckham with cheap caps to pick him albeit usually for brief encounters time and again, when it was so obvious to all and sundry that his pace, what he had of it, was long gone and that he seldom if ever beat his man. So time was wasted, while younger, stronger claimants sat on the sidelines.
Yet Franz Beckenbauer’s criticism wasn’t wholly fair. If England played what he scathingly called kick and rush football, if their use of the long ball against the USA was excessive, Fabio cannot get blood out of a stone. For where are the players? Where is any kind of a successor to Gazza, who one wished well after his motor accident, and please note that he wasn’t driving and was surely the victim of the one who carelessly was. No Glenn Hoddle, another superb passer of the ball, though Gascoigne of course had still more to his exceptional repertoire.
Where you can I think blame Capello is for his mistaken return to the Lampard-Gerrard dualism in midfield. It never really worked in the past and to reconstruct it, as was previously done in Graz against Japan, seemed a gesture of some desperation. I still believe that England would be best served with a Gerrard playing just behind Wayne Rooney largely, save for one fine shot, so disappointing against the States.
And while Robert Green’s error was horrifically crass and for a time at least demoralising to his team, surely England could and should have enough ability still to overcome a hardly exceptional USA team. Whose centreback DeMerit had actually just been given a free transfer by humble Watford.
Just, you might say, as the American team which sensationally humiliated England at Belo Horizonte in the 1950 World Cup was skippered by a right half, McIlvenny, who not long since had been given a free transfer by Wrexham of the Third Division North.
David James I feel had every right to be unhappy with his exclusion. Let him who is without guilt cast the first stone, you might say, “Calamity” James having given away some horrible goals in the past, notably in Vienna and Copenhagen. But he emerged from an excellent season even at the age of 39 with Portsmouth, and was probably right to believe that the injury he was carrying, which reportedly led to his exclusion, was not a serious one.
Green meanwhile joins James and so many others in the ranks of those England keepers who have blundered. Scott Carson and Paul Robinson against Croatia in the European Championship qualifiers. Poor Peter Bonetti who at the last moment had to stand in for the probably poisoned (yes, I believe that now, after talking to him) Gordon Banks in Leon against West Germany. David Seaman against Brazil and Ronaldinho’s diabolic, swerving shot in the 2002 World Cup in Japan, not to mention the corner kick which sailed over him and into goal playing against modest Macedonia in Southampton.
Green, when he made his debut in Eastern Europe, looked a contentious choice, he had an erratic season with West Ham and although he made that splendid one handed save from Mexico’s Vela at Wembley, it alas proved to be but a snare and a delusion.
Emile Heskey? No taking away from him the fact that he had an impressive first half and so neatly set up Gerrard for the goal. But alas it was the same old Heskey when Aaron Lennon so cleverly put him through all alone and he enabled Tim Howard to save without excessive hardship. Heskey blamed the ball, but he remains a non-scoring striker overall; and Villa significantly relegated him largely to the bench last season.
But just as you cannot blame Capello for the lack of playmakers, it is hardly his fault if so many of his potential strikers, not least Jermain Defoe, have gone off the boil.
As for the central defensive positions, John Terry seems to have lost important pace. Dawson, who has it, wasn’t even included in the original squad but now that he is there he should surely be given his chance ahead of Carragher, lacking in essential pace, and Upson who has never wholly convinced as an international stopper. The trouble is that by ignoring Dawson for so long, Capello has boxed himself and the player into a corner. How would he fare at international level?
I cannot believe either Algeria or Slovenia would have many terrors for him and I still expect England to qualify. We must then pray that they don’t meet Germany, who have what England so manifestly lack, a splendid classical creative inside forward in young Mesut Ozil. Who some months ago destroyed the England Under-21 defence in the European Cup Final.
The coach Joachim Low has sensibly and profitably restored the Polish-Germany partnership of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose up front despite their recent vicissitudes in the Bundesliga.
Elsewhere Italy without the injured Andrea Piro took a long time to come to life against a somewhat disappointing Paraguay; one expected much more of their attack, but they were undone by a shocking goalkeeping error at that left wing corner, enabling De Rossi to equalise, which may if he saw it have done something to console the hapless Green.
Obviously Brazil and Spain must still be feared but overall there has been all too much predictable mediocrity. Holland benefited from that freak goal which opened their account against Denmark, but even without Arjen Robben, who seems likely to be fit, their attack looked powerful. And in any case they have a lively young winger to deploy in Elijero Elia.
For Argentina, though they hardly excelled in their 1-0 victory against Nigeria, the great news is that the remarkable Messi is at long last showing his club form at international level. But the defence does not convince; still I don’t understand how Diego Maradona deployed Bayern Munich’s De Michelis in central role, and Jonas Gutierrez, essentially a winger, at right back.
South Korea were far too fast and flexible for a plodding Greek team, and Manchester United’s Park was the cream of the crop. At last the South Koreans seem to be finding almost literally their feet away from home.Like Angler´s Mail blog? Subscribe to our magazine and you will be able to access our latest comprehensive content!