Not one, but two retrospective posts today: mine is still ‘under construction’ Â and will be posted later, but here’s regular contributor Richard Smith’s take on what happened last night.
Picking Out The Positives From England’s 0-0 Thrashing At The Hands of Italy
Englandâ€™s story at the Euro 2012 football championship had a familiar and extremely typical ending, defeat on penalties! Mercifully, it never came against Germany this time, but against a hugely superior Italy, who can rightfully be accused of thrashing the Three Lions despite the 0-0 score line after 90 minutes in what was arguably one of the most one sided draws anyone is likely to see.
The statistics tell the complete story; Italy had 68% of the play, from which that had 33 shots on goal with 18 on target against Englandâ€™s pitiful eight shots with four on target. The completed pass rate was even more emphatic;Italy making 833 compared to England’s 364. Of course, the most vital statistic came in the penalty shoot-out with Italy finding the net four times against England’Â™s two successful spot kicks. With stats like these,Englandcan have no sense of injustice, there was no excuses, beaten by a far better team and only acts to highlight the gulf between where Roy Hodgsonâ€™s men sit now to where they will need to be in two years time at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
In real terms, England justified their final standing in the competition, they were beaten in the Quarter Final, which makes them a top eight European side but nothing more. They have no reason to feel ashamed of themselves; they achieved what most predicted pre-tournament and provided a number of moments that excited fans. Captain Steven Gerard played well enough to suggest that he could lead the team in the World Cup qualifiers which begin in September, whilstÂ Ashley Cole and Joe Hart emerged with some credit but the performances of the remainder of the squad who saw playing time during the tournament often flattered to deceive with Wayne Rooney in particularly very poor in the two he played. Glimpses of promise were shown by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Â Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll but ultimately, massive improvement must be made on all fronts over the next two years but the core of the next generation could well be in place.
Englanddid not have a player with the technical ability of Itlay’s, Andrea Pirlo, whose exquisite contribution oozed class and spelt despair forEngland. He pulled England to pieces from a position deep in midfield where the combined efforts of Gerrard, Parker and Rooney could not reach him. He was only defied a match winning performance in normal time by England’s brave defending and his own sideâ€™s poor finishing. His audacious penalty in the shoot-out was a microcosm of his overall contribution that was richly deserved.
Sadly for England, Italyâ€™s dominant performance has put on hold the increased optimism that was evident after they qualified as Group D winners. Hodgson has much to be pleased about, he knows that he has a squad of players that have great integrity, that now has a unity that will stand them in good stead as when they begin their preparations for the World Cup qualifiers which start on 7th September with a trip to Moldova, before taking on Ukraine at Wembley four days later. Before that and somewhat ironically, they play Italy in a friendly on 15th August.
Hodgson will have a lot to contemplate between now and that Italy game, knowing that one or two of the “old guard” will need to be stood down, namely John Terry, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand, the later two of which didn’t make it to the finals but by and large, he has a youthful squad, which does not need to change too dramatically. He will also know that tactically and technically,Â England are a long way behind the top nations and it is in this area where he will need to concentrate his greatest efforts.
All in all a disappointing exit for the Three Lions but there are reasons to be optimistic and whilst there’s plenty of room for improvement, the question has to be asked has the team done any worse than it would have under Fabio Capello. Onwards and upwards…next stop Brazil!