Well, that was a depressing game. And, unfortunately, a depressing tournament as a whole for a vastly underperforming England side. Fabio Capello, the coach who seemed to have the Midas touch about him during qualification, appeared to forget to pack his tactical acumen in his suitcase. Playing Gerrard woefully out of position throughout the tournament, and making some very strange substitutions (putting Wright-Phillips on the left after half an hour of the first match, for example, and withdrawing Defoe for Heskey rather than Crouch today), international management – tournament style – has been a surprisingly tough baptism of fire for such a talented coach. And what of Wayne Rooney? United’s talisman, one of the best players of last season, has often been fearsome in an England shirt in the past, but at this World Cup his touch was appalling, his passing wayward, and he seemed a shadow of his usual self.
Today, of course, we can blame the Lampard goal that wasn’t given for some of our ill fortune. The match result may have been 4-1 to the Germans in reality, but with non-blind officials, going in 2-2 at half-time with the momentum strongly with England would have led to a very different second half in terms of approach for both teams. The opposition may well have won anyway given England’s shocking defensive display, but we’ll never know – the disgraceful decision had a massive impact on the game despite the three goal cushion enjoyed by the Germans in the final analysis.
But while it is a good straw to clutch onto (and surely the final nail in Sepp Blatter’s Luddite protests against goal-line technology), the fact is that England played absymally in two out of four games, pretty terribly in another, and scraped together only one half-decent performance. When you look at how optimistic we were before the World Cup compared to the reality of our participation in it, there’s going to be a major inquest into just how we buggered it up so badly. So many top class Premier League players didn’t perform on the big stage. When Capello came into the job, he immediately exorcised the nerves that had cursed Steve McLaren’s team; now, though, the shakes are back in force, and the unthinkable question a few weeks ago has become a real talking point: should Fabio go?
Maybe so. This campaign was unacceptable, and I have a feeling that there’s a lot to come out over the next few weeks about life in the camp, which may go some way to explain why the England from qualification didn’t turn up. We’ll see. Whatever the answers, this disappointment will be yet another long-lasting painful memory. But having watched England for so many years, we’re all used to those now, right?