England Have Progressed Despite WC Misery

England are moving forward. That's the claim from one of a couple of glass-half-full-type Mailboxers. There are plenty, though, not happy with Roy Hodgson and Steven Gerrard...

Last Updated: 20/06/14 at 11:50

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The Good News First...
We went into this World Cup not expecting much (for a change) we've played some decent football (for a change) and lost two very close games against the Euro 2012 finalists & against the reigning Copa America champions due to defensive errors. We dominated one of these top 10 ranked teams & matched the other in possession (remember the popular criticism ''English players can't keep the ball!''), we restricted them to only six shots on target between them whilst we had 10 as well as more shots off target, we put in almost twice as many crosses as both teams and forced many more corners.
So, in short, get some perspective. Yes I am disappointed but that doesn't send me into common sense losing hysteria like it will most of the fans & journalists, I can recognize the overall improvement in the English football team and after all isn't that what we all wanted to see?
Charlie AFC (It's not over yet, C'mon Italia!)


...We may have lost both of our games but I haven't enjoyed watching England this much at a tournament in years. Yes our defence is the worst it has been for ages but at least we played to win and played without the fear that we normally do. We have also given valuable experience to a few youngsters and got rid of most of the old guard. Say goodbye to Lamps and Stevie G (probably Johnson too) and find some defenders and in the Euros and next World Cup we could go a decent run.

Thanks Roy for not being the boring defensive manager every thought you would be. Also all those questioning if Suarez is world class should probably shut up now, he is a dickhead but also a world class talent.
Marcus (Now cheering on Chile and Colombia) London


...I'm as miserable as anyone after last night, but the idea that we're as good as buried is just wrong. We don't need to rely on some ridiculous sequence of results or a major shift in goal difference - we just need Italy to win their two remaining games and we need to beat Costa Rica by two goals. That's all.

Costa Rica beat Uruguay and suddenly they're Argentina? No. They're beatable. Italy will want to play Colombia next round? I wouldn't have thought so, so they'll want to win the group, and that means winning two games.

We can debate the merits of England deserving to somehow scrape out of the group until we turn purple, but let's not make out that this is Mission: Impossible.

If things fall right, this really COULD be the best World Cup ever.
Ian, Northampton


And Now, The Bad...
Last time I emailed F365 was about Ashley Cole's performance against Kazakhstan, lord was I spoilt - this pairing has to be the worst pairing of fullbacks I've ever seen (1998 onwards). So lets talk about the real problem - lack of accountability.

Here's what'll happen - Hodgson will take the majority of the blame, he might get sacked, he might not, but the next friendly after the world cup will still contain 90% of the same players - there's no accountability. No player ever suffers for the pain us English fans go through. Rooney won't be dropped, if Gerrard's dropped it'll be his age and Baines will still play. The youngsters still have the excuse of inexperience, a luxury not afforded to Hart, Johnson, Baines, Gerrard, Rooney, Jagielka and Cahill, and yet there will be no accountability. Their reputations won't be dented, and their ineptitude and incompetence will be forgotten with the new season, leaving only Hodgson's reputation to be damaged.

This has been the way since I've been watching, and it will long continue. Instead, we continue to claim that there's something unique about the "English spirit" while our players bottle it at the vast majority of opportunities. Claim Rooney is world class while he continues to disappoint. Claim to be angry at rankings that put us below countries who continue to defeat us. Demand the quarter finals while we can't complete passes against second-rate opposition.

Hodgson's not the problem, he's the Tesco's Finest disinfectant on the rot of English national football - spraying simply keeps the problem at bay, but the wood remains worthless.
Tom (imagine how worse it would have been under Redknapp!) Scrivener, London (soon to be Trinidad)


What's So Special About Gerrard?
Can anyone explain to me exactly why Gerrard is so special that he commands a place in the team? The general consensus seems to be that he had a good season with Liverpool at this deep-lying playmaker role, starting moves from the back and keeping a good tempo. But, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the ridiculously quick tempo Liverpool played was not because of Gerrard, but because Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling etc could play the ball between them very quickly, leaving Gerrard out. Indeed, it seemed more that Gerrard did the basics that anyone can expect from a footballer (i.e. pass to his own team), and yet somehow be implicated in results that had little to do with him, in the same way that it seems a bit false to give Fernando Torres credit for Chelsea's clean sheet record. Now, I admit I may be wrong about his role for Liverpool, but he didn't score a single goal from open play all year. Surely if he had a key role in the quick tempo, he would've been on the end on some of the countless chances created by Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling etc?

This moves me on to his role for England, who despite all the talk about "we must play like Liverpool", clearly cannot play the same tempo, for whatever reason. That means that Gerrard is reduced to a John Obi Mikel figure, where all he does is play the ball sideways and then drop a bit deeper, eventually hoping that a player is available if he swings it out wide. I don't remember him playing a single pass that was longer than 12 yards last night, unless you count his brilliant assist.

I think Gerrard was a great player, and he think he adapted well to suit a certain style of play with Liverpool, where he can start an attack and then leave the attackers to do their thing. But when it is clear that England play a different style, why exactly does he get a guaranteed starting position, over say Wilshire, who can carry the ball with genuine pace?
Ben (still better to be an england fan in 2014 than in 2010, no matter what), London


...Its easy to slate the England defense right now but when you have Gerrard as your "screen" what do you expect. Once again he had a hand in both opposition goals and provided absolutely nothing in his quarterback (passenger) role.

I often hear that he has this magical capability to drag his team forward and win a game single-handedly.... well I don't think I've seen a player single-handedly lose more games either.
Danny, Preston


Be Quiet
Will someone please stop Steven Gerrard making speeches. It seems that every one of Stevie G's 'rousing speeches' is a portent of doom. His 'this does not f****** slip' speech (after Pool beat Citeh) was followed two weeks later by THAT slip which effectively ended Liverpool's title challenge. Fast-forward to the World Cup and Stevie G's 'rallying cry' to his team mates before the Uruguay game was "We all need to leave everything on that pitch" before providing a pinpoint assist for Luis Suarez's winning goal.

I thought that footballers were meant to be a superstitious bunch?
David, North London


Have No Fear, Lads. But...
The ITV commentators mentioned that Lampard and Gerrard were invited by Hodgson to address the team after the Italy game. Apparently they chose to tell the youngsters just how painful a world cup exit can be and that it will stay with you for a long, long time after the World Cup has finished. I wasn't aware of this until the commentators mentioned it but apparently (well...according to several news sites) it did actually happen.

I'm not saying this had a major impact on the performance in the Uruguay game but that's it's an insane angle to take in a team-talk isn't it? Why on earth would the two most experienced players look to impress all their most negative experiences on the younger players? Basically saying "Lads... you didn't look afraid out there. Well you f***ing should because you're about to be scarred for life".

To me it seems a ridiculously, unbelievably negative approach.
Laurence (was gonna write an email about Aussie football yesterday but Toitle said it all far better than I ever could... they've been awesome).


A Crumb Of Comfort
At least Wayne Rooney finally equalled Gary Breen's World Cup goal scoring record of one goal. It's the little things,
Remy Connolly


Shape Throwing
Good piece by Daniel Storey, but I'd add that this whole focus on big players delivering is a little unhelpful.

Rooney played better on Thursday than against Italy, but the team played worse. He played better because this was a team set up to help Rooney play well rather than get the best out of the rest of the players available. The idea that England can only beat teams if Rooney is firing demonstrates a huge lack of confidence in the rest of the team. We seem to think a rampaging Rooney will be too much for any opposition to handle so the focus is in getting the best out of him rather than the squad. The same has been true of Gerrard and Lampard in the past.

Pundits asked after the game how many Chile players would get into the England team, but that's a specious question as Chile - like many other international teams - have a system that played can step in and out of. Individuals enhance the system but are not crucial to it so the team is more than the sum of its parts. Unless you have a raft of really talented players this is the wary till go. Now, I can't think of any England team that has achieved this or many in the premier league for that matter. Maybe Swansea, Southampton, and possibly Brendan Rogers' Liverpool.

Until England can do this, and reject the ideas of building a team around a particular player, we're not going to get anywhere. Unless we do a Belgium and suddenly discover a whole load of talented individuals. But what are the chances if that happening?
Will, LFC


Bang Average
Being an Irishman I'm used to watching mediocre, average players wear the national team jersey. It's an accepted fact that we've come to terms with; how else could you explain how Kevin Kilbane or Glenn Whelan picked up so many international caps?
It must be so incredibly frustrating then for English fans to be forced to watch the likes of Welbeck and Henderson plod about a football field wearing your jersey when it's glaringly obvious that there are an abundance of far better players wasted on the substitutes bench.
Eoin (Joe Hart is like shearing a pig, more noise than wool), Ireland


Townsend Leads By Example
Amidst the drama and despair of England's defeat I noticed one sign of encouragement from the commentary box. "If anything he has hit that t.... he has hit that hard, its a good stop" said Townsend after Rooney missed another good opportunity to score his first world cup finals goal before his eventual tap-in.

If anything, perhaps Townsend has been frequenting F365 and has begun to understand just how ridiculous a phrase "hit that too well" really is. As a result he was able to stop the nonsense mid sentence. That's better. If even Andy can learn and improve perhaps there is hope for all of English (and I suppose also Irish) football.
Oscar (much as I enjoy Rooney getting stick Gerard deserves twice as much) THFC, Geneva


Not Buying It
Despite a long awaited goal, the issue with Rooney is that he's a victim of his own brand. His record in major tournaments hasn't lived up to what we expect. It's those expectations that are the problem.

He's marketed alongside the likes of Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic and Neymar, literally sold to us as one of the great players of our generation. The public naturally buy this rather false image of Rooney. The problem lies in that anyone who understands football will concede he is not on their level, yet the expectation is still implied by such association. It's not his fault, he clearly does try his best. We have to ignore the gloss that's applied to his image and accept that Rooney's best isn't good enough to compete at the very highest level.
Fred, London


Fight, Fight, Fight
Following the England game last night, the RTE pundits were commenting that Uruguay had plenty of players who would "kill their granny" and who had been down some dark alleys, while in comparison Roy Hodgson looked like an overpromoted civil servant.
While I disagree with the Hodgson point, the bit about Uruguay highlights the main difference between the teams. Uruguay were fighting for their lives, but England didn't have that spark, the warrior spirit.
If your life depended on it, who would you rather have behind you? I think most people would agree it's the south Americans.
DC , Dublin


Attack, Attack, Attack!
A lot of blame has been placed on England's defence in this World Cup, but we always knew we were going to let in goals, didn't we? We were going to score more than we let in, weren't we? Well one tap-in goal per game is simply not good enough: our forwards have let us down.

If you could divide the pitch up in to four, we were fantastic in the third quarter of the pitch in the opposition's half - winning everything, making great runs, etc , but in the final quarter in front of their goal, we had nothing to offer, unless the ball was on a plate.

As a fan you should not be coming away from such matches thinking, "I could have scored those goals". Granted, the build-up play to them was fantastic, but you need to be scoring "proper" goals as well.

In England's defence, we have played the previous World Cup's semi-finalists and the Champions from the tournament before that and we have not faced an Iran a Nigeria or a Japan. So some perspective is required. But if we are to be given a lifeline in this competition by Italy tonight, then a serious change in tactics in the final quarter of the pitch is required - it might sound terribly simplistic but guess what? We need to score goals. Real ones.
David Aina, Croydon


Dithering Roy
I'm trying to think - has Hodgson ever significantly switched England's tactics mid-game? You see slight adjustments here and there, but a running theme of his reign does tend to be - "if it isn't working, just keep trying harder" - rather than any attempt to address why it isn't working, and changing things to neutralise the problem.

Uruguay lined up in a very narrow formation last night, which combined with their strong pressing game completely neutralised our ability to pass the ball effectively. Suarez, Cavani and Lodeiro constantly lingered around our two holders, effectively cutting our team in half, while their midfield three surrounded our forwards up the pitch. They aimed to congest the match, and indeed they succeeded in congested the match, a tactically sound ploy when you have Suarez and Cavini up front to fashion some magic for you should a half-chance arise.

It worked for them. Two fantastic Suarez finishes (God, do I admire and hate that man, so much) aided by some awful, awful England defending decided the match, and will likely see the end of our campaign. But when it was obvious that our pre-planned narrow passing game was not going to work with the Uruguayans set up as a human turnstile, why not change things?

Why not drop Rooney back into a midfield three, have Sterling and Wellbeck move to the wings and go for a wide 4-3-3, or try a 4-4-2 for a spell? There was space on the wings, plenty of it, but sticking to our formation and continually trying to wriggle through the South Americans seemed to be plans A,B and C.

When what your opponent is doing tactically is clearly working, when they have neutralised you, you can do two things - change your tactics or settle on "try harder" as a game plan. The problem with the "try harder" route is that you are hanging on for a flash of individual skill or a slip of concentration from your opponent to fashion a chance. While that eventually worked for our equaliser, it did seem fairly obvious that relying on a chink in Uruguay's armour to appear a second time, or some outrageous skill from among our number to appear from thin air, was not exactly a fail-safe plan. Not with the level of skill among the players we have, and especially not with our tendency to switch off defensively at the other end of the pitch.

I don't want to be overly negative. Maybe Italy will beat Costa Rica tonight and then hammer Uruguay, maybe we will dispatch Costa Rica and the maths will fall in place to let us squeak through; unlikely, but not impossible. But the fact remains that unless Hodgson learns to think on his feet mid-match and ease his tactical stubbornness we won't go much further, and neither will we deserve to.
Stefan K, London


Tactics And Formations And Stuff
I sent a long, navel-gazing email in the wake of England's defeat to Italy that ended with the crackpot suggestion that Gerrard should be brought into a back three. This one will be slightly shorter, I promise, but never fear - I have another crackpot idea.

How we persist with two deep central midfielders when the opposition is pressing hard and packing the middle of the park, I will never know. Especially when one of them is virtually geriatric at this stage of his career. Gerrard was desperate last night and is no Pirlo, but even Pirlo would look terrible as part of a middle two. Tactically, last night was woeful. Uruguay looked a distinctly average, if committed team (albeit with a talismanic presence up front); the problem was that we were far worse. Our midfield was non-existent, with no link to the attackers. Every time we got the ball in our half, a thirty-yard gap opened up to our attackers. Hodgson and the management team have to take the blame here: we've taken the frailty and tendency towards individual errors of Liverpool last season without any of the benefits of the attacking upside. We barely even created chances last night and showed no inclination to get behind their defence. They have to understand that to play that formation requires a real link between midfield and attack. Rooney, for all his qualities, is never going to be that man. And the substitutions were poorly used. Sterling was poor in the first half, but was just starting to exert some influence against a tiring defence, so why take him off? Lallana was brought on in the wrong position. I feel Hodgson has the players, but doesn't quite know how to use them.
Anyway, onto the crackpot idea: Jonathan Wilson for England manager. At least he understands tactics and formations and stuff. Having someone clever in the changing room might do our moronic players some good, too. The lack of self-awareness that surrounds the England setup (and, for the most part, our glorious press) is cringeworthy.
Matt, London


Oh My God, They Killed Rooney...
Supporting England is like watching South Park and hoping Kenny makes it through the episode.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool


Not Me. Anyone?
All this talk about toe bunging got me thinking, does anyone remember the phrase 'titty lining'? Gary Lineker was the perfect example of a titty liner, someone who always hangs around the six-yard box and scores tap-ins. It wasn't complimentary either, more of an insult in a 'F*** off Andy, stop titty lining you t**t' kinda way. Just me then? Fine.
Andy the t**t.

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