Saturday, 24 July 2010

England's World Cup - The G.E.I.S.H Index

By Shane Thomas

So now that the hype has come & gone and the flags have been taken down, England's footballers have gone from 'world class' to 'overhyped disgraces to society who should be put in the stocks for letting their country down'. Well at least that's the case if you read 'The Sun'. Away from such hysteria, how did the England team perform in South Africa? Well going through the squad memebers (obviously only those who featured) here's my marks. We've seen Fabio Capello's Index. Here's mine:


An example of an honest professional being overpromoted. Green was well worth his place in the squad but his calamitous error against the United States ended up being the edge of a very steep hill that England's World Cup campaign rolled down at an alarming rate. The "what if" questions will sadly haunt his career - 4 (out of 10)


Ednded up being the right selection too late for England. Gave the defence more solidity after featuring from the Algeria game. But he was let down by his back four against Germany and couldn't be blamed for the goals he conceded. However, he was one of a number of players whose conduct off the pitch left a lot to be desired. His sulking at not being first choice goalkeeper was not befitting of a man approaching his 40's - 6


Started impressively against the USA, but seemed to lose his nerve as the tournament progressed. Was not the defensive liablilty that many has feared before the competition, and he gives England a crucial extra dimension when he attacks. But he failed in that regard. He'll probably get a second chance in Rio in four years time - 5


The game against Germany was a microcosm of what life must have been like for the Chelsea man this past year. Being attacked from all sides and unable to stem the tide. But Cole was a beacon for England this summer. If there's a better left-back in world football right now I'm yet to see him. England's Star Man - 7


No matter how much he tarnishes himself off the pitch, Terry seems to be able to remain a rock in defence. Bereft of Rio Ferdinand, Terry often had to do the jobs of two men. And that led to his and his country's eventual downfall. Against Germany, his relish for responsibilty got the better of him, and by trying to do far too much at once, he overcompensated and was ruthlessly exposed by Germany as a result. It was a painful display of hubris. However, Capello should ignore calls from the both the public & the press for Terry to be dropped from the England side. The way they turned on him after England's elimination after lauding him for his performance against Slovakia shows how fickle these people can be. And Capello will need Terry's experience in what is an already vulnerable back line - 6


Sadly King was always an accident that was going to happen. When recalled to the England squad in March of last year, his club manager, Harry Redknapp expressed complete bemusement, as he was aware that King's chronic knee problems would make it near impossible for him to play games in a short period of time. So this was proved after injuring himself within minutes of their opening match. King is blameless as no player would turn down a chance to go to the World Cup but he should never have made the provisional 30, let alone the final 23 - 3


Was brought along as a utility man in case of injuries. The problem was that Capello's selections meant that he was pressed into service a great deal more than a backup man ever should be. Maybe Carragher at his best could have handled this without difficulty but the Liverpool man's peak was at least three years ago. His failure to make the starting eleven for the defeat against Germany compounded a miserable tournament for the scouser - 5


Another man at the centre of a "what if" moment. Without his late block against Slovakia, England would probably have gone home earlier than they had done. But it also precipitated Capello keeping faith with him in the following game. Germany shone the biggest spotlight on Upson's lack of ability to play at the top level. He looked woefully out of his depth and his goal in the match was a mere footnote. Unlikely to feature in an England shirt again - 4


Many forget what an impressive impact the Tottenham man had in the last World Cup. This time around Lennon was as anonymous as he had been impressive in Germany's stadiums in 2006. Here was a clear example of a talented player freezing on the big stage. Seldom doing what he was in the side for - to frighten full backs with his searing pace, Lennon was a microcosm of the malaise that affected England throughout June & July - 3


Illness meant that Milner had a disastrous start to the World Cup, being substituted before half-time against the USA. He deservedly got a second chance and impressed hugely against Slovenia, creating the winner. However, he was poor against Germany and may need to play in his best position of central midfield to succeed at international level in the future - 5


Surprised many by making the plane to South Africa after an injury in the penultimate game of the Premier League season. While important to the overall balance of the team, I have always had my doubts about Barry in the anchor man position. And while he was short of the required fitness needed for the World Cup, don't let that convince you that was why he looked so out of sorts agsint Germany. The second he comes up agsinst good attacking midfield players, his defensive shortcomings are laid bare. Barry shouldn't be in England's starting eleven unless he has a 'spoiler' alongside him - 4


I earmarked Lampard to have a big World Cup for England. I earmarked wrong. This is partly due to his relationship with Barry. Lampard is at his best when he knows he has a strong shield behind him (e.g. Claude Makalele, Jon Obi Mikel, even Michael Ballack), England don't have such a player and Lampard becomes fearful of overcommitting himself to go forward as a result. But this is what he is in the side for. We all know how unlucky he was not to score against Germany, but the fact remains that this was his last chance on the biggest stage to shine and he failed to do so - 5


Gerrard took over the captaincy of the England side by default. Capello gave him an audition to lead the team back in 2007 and was stunned by the detrimental effect it had on him. So it probably would have been a wiser choice to give it to Lampard instead after Rio Ferdinand's injury. Despite his goal in the first match and his excellent performance against Slovenia, this was not the Steven Gerrard that England needed to see. After performing so well for his country in a left sided postition in qualifying. he seemed to allow the punditocracy's absurd demands for him to play off Wayne Rooney to get to him. Gerrard's introspection is part of what has made him so effective for Liverpool, but this time England needed a leader, not a navel gazer - 6


Throughout the tournament the clamour increased for Joe Cole to play, even unhelpfully so from John Terry. I can only imagine this is due to the theory that follows certain players. The theory goes, " the less they play, the better they become". It's the only logical explanation as Cole's three substitute appearances gave no weight to the demands for him to be involved. His carelessness in possession against Germany is not only why Capello was reluctant to start him but also led to the Germans fourth goal. A fit and focused Joe Cole is an asset to any team, but this version looked to have half a mind on the professional limbo that Chelsea left him in over the summer - 4


Astonishing to think that I wrote on this blog that Rooney would light up against Algeria after showing glimpses of his ability in the latter stages of the America match. That was as good as it got for Rooney. Whether he was unfit, unhappy or both, Rooney's performances in South Africa were at times inexplicable. His performance against the Algerians was the worst I have ever witnessed from him. His conduct after the final whistle was not much better. Penny for his thoughts? I'd happily pay pounds. Lots of them - 2


Sad that even when performing well against the States, Heskey was made a scapegoat, and not just from the one-eyed section of the England support, but from people who are paid to talk about football and as a result should ostensibly know what they are talking about. Who knows whether the criticism found its way through to Heskey as he struggles with his self-confidence at the best of times. He was a shadow of himself against Algeria and to all intents and purposes his tournament was over - 5


Hs winning goal that sent England through to the last 16 has left Capello with a conundrum. He knows, as do most people, that Defoe does not function well with Wayne Rooney. But Defoe did little wrong in this World Cup and it would be unfair to cast him back to the bench. If Defoe makes a good start to the domestic season with Spurs, the decision will become an even tougher one for the Italian - 6


Yes, Capello got quite a few things wrong. The ludicrous 'Capello Index', putting too much trust in players who were not fit enough and being unable to come up with a functional 'Plan B'. But I empathise with him as he replicated the conditions that got England to South Africa in such convinving fashion and his players let him down, not only with their lacklustre performances, but their juvenile bickering amongst each other in their Rustenburg training camp.

Capello deserves credit for not taking a massive payoff and walking out on the England team, but sticking it out in what are unenviable circumstances. This was his first taste of tournament football and it is often a different beast to qualifying. The great Jock Stein said that, "you wear your boiler-suit to qualify and then lay out the dinner jacket for the tournament". Capello can't afford to leave the dinner jacket at home for Euro 2012, assuming England qualify. He has to find a way to stop England lagging behind the fluidity of the leading nations. While his place in the coaches Hall of Fame is already secure, this will probably be his toughest test in management. He's been given a second chance to get it right. He wont get a third - 5

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