The English don’t deserve this football team…

Date published: Monday 12th July 2021 3:04 - Editor F365

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That collective English shoulder-patting is completely misplaced
Let’s be frank – England didn’t deserve it. Why?

1) The Fans certainly didn’t. They were abysmal. Negative, cynical, gleeful, derisive, worst of all, they let their team down, when it needed them. Did you register the collective shock-stillness when Italy scored? And when it was over they left. You can probably congratulate the collective English press and politics for making the EC the NATIONAL outlet to finally show corona and the last one and a half year the collective finger, but in a way as if other countries (like, say, Italy) hadn’t been affected.

2) The manager. You all went out of your way to first critisize him for playing, let’s call it conservatively defensive, and then make a u-turn to hail him for reaching the the final, “admitting” you were wrong to doubt him. You never saw what was actually happening.

3) He started RIGHT in the first game with a conservate, defensive line-up, trying to not lose the first game against what would arguably be the toughest group stage opponent, garnering a victory and 3 points -and then missed it completely in the second against the Scots to try and test introducing more individual skills against a team that would certainly be all-in for every apparent reason, but be quite limited with everything else.

4) And while the smothering tactics worked again against the Czechs, with the Germany game the inherent flaw of the team became obvious; the team that went out was set up to  out-defend Germany. It worked – but with an xG of 1.38 – 1.33. In other words, it was plain luck and might as well not have worked at all.

5) At that time it was clear that the players Foden, Saka, Sancho, Grealish, and Rashford were all competing for one slot, if any at all – what a waste of talent (and tickets and chances to change players in game)

6) Against a knackered Ukraine it was clear they would succeed any which way, but against the Danes they needed the gift of the ref. NO neutral would have given that penalty, as much as some people (this website included) went out of their way to justify it (it was deserved?), the truth is, Sterling himself spoke of a “touch” – not a knock or something like that. A touch. And he concluded that it was a penalty because he was touched, but you do not get penalties because you are “touched” – you get them because you are touched with enough force to be go down believably, which wasn’t the case here. To be fair, England WAS the better team.

7) But at that point Italy had beaten already the #1 team Belgium and Spain, who had smothered Italy nearly completely in their semis in the 2nd half and had still succumbed to penalties. It was clear that Italy would yet again go all-in in the final and all-out at that – somewhat like the Scots, just a couple of levels above them.

8) Now the real question for the final is this: The initial tactics worked so well that England was up 1-0 after 2 minutes. So what happened the rest of the time? What happened was, that England from then on was trying to smother the game instead of investing more and try to decide it. Italy was struggling to find the right shape while England was happy having the ball without actually creating much.

9) Which horribly backfired, came the second half. Mancini had worked it all out and suddenly England got no more touches in the last third and saw not much of the ball.

10) Now, the important thing is – at least in  my opinion – that Mancini’s Italy had been playing with lots of substitutions the whole time. They had lost Spinazzola as well. They lost Chiesa in the final, but every substitution worked, the players performing. Italy was a team of 26. England was a team of 12 or so, came the final.

11) And that difference in player-management culminated in the penalty shootout. The players who had vied for one slot at most all failed their shots.

12) Understand me correctly – I don’t bemoan the fact that England played a godawfully boring football a good deal of the time, not necessarily. What I bemoan is the fact that the manager didn’t give more players more chances to play. Bringing Sancho in minute 89 isn’t going to do anything – it’s an alibi change. When something isn’t working, you need TRIED alternatives. The only halfway tried alternative was Saka, and Saka wasn’t all that good in the final. Henderson wasn’t tried and he didn’t do much good either. Rashford should have been able to replace Sterling 1:1, and so on. It was bad squad management.

The bottom line is, you need more than 12 players to win a tourney, and knowing that you should play accordingly – and Italy did that. I suppose everyone agrees that Italy is the deserved champion; the beat Belgium, Spain and England and they played BRAVELY.  They didn’t have the best squad, but they had the best manager and the best team spirit.

I hope that England will learn from that lesson for the next WC. If they do, they may well win it then. The potential is certainly there.
JJ, Germany


First of all, what an incredible tournament. We had some amazing football, fantastic goals, giant slaying, drama days. One of the best sports tournaments i can remember and there is no shame losing to an incredible Italian team.

I have been trying to get my head around what went wrong, how Italy won, and what I would have done to fix things if i was Southgate. Think its important to think about the bigger picture rather than just shout “Get Grealish and Sancho on!”.

So after Southgates tactics worked, which we should commend, and dominated the opening 1/4 of the match, what changed? Italys full backs dropped deeper, allowing our back 3 more time on the ball but less options as the Italian front 3 pressed higher up, meaning we started kicking the ball longer and longer. Kane dropping deep meaning we didn’t really contest the ball, allowing Chielini and Bonnuchi time to pick their header and subsequent passes with time. It meant we lacked outlets and had very little of the ball while Italy had too much time on the ball.

On the front foot, Italy looked at Englands very organised 2 banks of 4 and realised they were too organised. Much like Denmark, they realised the way to beat England was to sit in the space between defense and midfield where Maguire/Stones/Walker didn’t want to push up and Phillips/Rice tended to be pressing further up or not watching behind them. Italian players given space were able to turn and run at the defense which slowly but surely opened up more and more holes. As Italy kept finding the space, the opportunities meant I thought they would win in normal time eventually.

So Southgate realised he needed to find a way to get the ball out of defense and forward, through pace or dribbling, whilst making sure he had pace to recover the ball if it kept finding space between the lines. Saka has been great at this all tournament and he provided in defense but less in attack yesterday. Grealish is much better at receiving the ball, which we didnt have, and running at teams whilst Sancho loves space but doesn’t provide the defensive focus needed against a team as good as Italy. Foden was apparently carrying a knock. So whilst we have a wealth of attacking options, just throwing a player on wasn’t going to magically change the situation.

Moving to a 4-3-3 was the next decision, but this didn’t really solve our problems. It didn’t make us any more defensively solid as the gaps were still there and the front 3 didn’t press high enough up whilst still not being able to get the ball down and get some possession. This only became worse as players like Rice and Mount tired and pressed less and less. Henderson came on and didn’t mark or press, which was impressive really.

I don’t fault Southgate for what he tried, but i do fault him for when. Making changes earlier in the second half allows more time to see if its working and more time to change if it isn’t. Saka on at 50/55 means you can change it up again at 70 if its still not working and so on. We could have started extra time with Sancho/Rashford coming on to try something new earlier in the game. On that point, I love how loyal Southgate is but Sterling wasn’t having a good game and should have come off, he wasnt afforded the time or space he needs vs an incredible Italy defense.

What would I have done? 4-4-2. with Bonnuci and Chielini allowed so much time on the ball and players finding space behind, they needed more pressure on them and they needed to be pegged back a bit. Putting Rashford/Sancho alongside Kane, with Foden on the left and Saka on the right with Rice and Phillips in the middle, more ball retention and progression on the wings with enough defensive intelligence and more pace to push the Italians back up front ahead of Kanes holding up the ball in a deeper role.

Would this have worked? Who knows, Italy were smart, read the game well and really should have won in normal time. Bonnuci and Chielini have not been dribbled past this whole tournament and were immense today. They were the tournaments best team but it doesn’t stop it hurting. Most importantly, of this team only Henderson is likely not to be at the next major tournament and I can easily see us challenging the world cup and the next Euros. They did well and fell just short, no shame in that.
Rob A (hope Saka has turned off social media for a bit, poor lad) AFC


Southgate out
Having watched yet another abject defensive display from England with nearly all the attacking players in the squad sat on the bench yet again and only one shot on goal in 120 minutes it is time for Southgate to go.

Even if we ignore the ridiculous penalty fiasco and his inability to allow Sancho and Rashford any sensible game time before they took their penalties, he has single handedly missed another great chance to win a major tournament as he did in the World Cup in 2018.

In both tournaments we have been given an easy group and an even easier path to the final, but have come up short on both occasions.

The pundits have said that what happened in the Euros is a great platform for the future, but not with Southgate as manager, as the brilliance of Foden, Sancho, Bellingham, Grealish and Saka will be left sitting on the bench in Qatar in 2022 as they have for the most part in the Euros.

Time to go Southgate and for the FA to bring in a coach that is not driven by blank sheets, but by scoring goals and playing attacking football.

Laurie Cole


Hindsight – not really
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and all the people saying “Southgate should have done this”, “Southgate should have done that” are clearly comforted by the fact that we lost (I know it was a draw, but who’s got the trophy?) as justification for their comments.

However, it isn’t hindsight, it’s what many of us predicted before the tournament began, that as soon as we came across a “good” team, Southgate would revert to type and stifle our attacking intent.  I was fairly anxious before the game, Italy were unbeaten in 33, but it was precisely 7.00p.m. when I got my first real “I don’t think we’re going to do this” moment, that was the moment when I saw the headline “Trippier starts”.

It may have worked against Germany (it didn’t really as we scored once the formation changed) but what was obvious from that game was that Kane and Sterling were really isolated for long periods and Germany enjoyed a lot of easy possession and ball recovery and giving Italy the same opportunity was always going to be more difficult.  People claim that Southgate was able to make tough decisions and unlike previous managers didn’t try to shoehorn people into the team.  If that’s true, try explaining Trippier or Mount playing a different role than he does at club level. Try explaining why he hasn’t learnt from Croatia, remarkably similar to last night except Italy didn’t find a winner.

England showed in the first few minutes what could be done if they were aggressive going forward, Sterling (and I’m not his biggest fan) was scaring the living daylights out of the Italian defence with direct running and Shaw getting forward caused other problems, but then we stopped!  A lot of credit is being given to Italy for “getting back in the game”, but really England let them, yes we looked reasonably comfortable and Rice was immense for 45 minutes but the writing was on the wall and Southgate didn’t read it, we dropped deeper and deeper and our attacks were based on a big punt from Pickford, just what the Italians wanted.

This group of players will get better as they get more experience and a few more may come through to give even greater depth and I do believe they are capable of winning a tournament, but this will be despite Southgate and not because of him.  Mancini trusted his players to win games not “not to lose” them.
Howard (we bottled it) Jones


A few thoughts…
It’s hard to feel any criticism is appropriate right now after how well England did, but if I may:

  1. Stutter run-ups where you stop and stare at the keeper should be banned. It’s always a stutter run-up that misses in a penalty shootout. Rashford did exactly what Ronaldo did in Moscow 08 – why haven’t people learned by now it never works?
  2. Every touch Saka had was awful. I don’t blame him, he’s a teenager on the biggest stage imaginable – it’s bound to affect you. I think he should have been saved from himself and not been one of the penalty takers. And I thought that when I saw he was taking one.
  3. Sterling has that Ji Sung Park feel about him where things never quite come off, but it was close enough that everyone cheers and applauds. Very little attention is paid to whether anything was actually achieved.
  4. I believe reports that United are in pole position for Kane is because, like with Alexis Sanchez, City have decided to pull out. Probably based on Kane playing like a 38-year-old. One too many injuries?

Silvio Dante


Deep dive
I wanted to delve a little deeper into the game yesterday, but first I did want to point out that the abuse of the lads who missed penalties is abhorrent in itself but also in the fact that it was expected. Plenty of mailboxers, English media and politicians opposed the England team taking the knee, and now you’re getting a very real example of why they do. Also, I may not have seen it on the site but I read and seen examples of abuse following the Danish game (a woman with her two daughters being spit on for wearing Danish jerseys; a man and wife assaulted on a bus for the same reason) and seen the videos of fighting yesterday: other countries root against England because of things like that, whether they are a minority or not. Personally, I like England and agree that this team and manager is probably the best of them but those scenes do leave a very bitter taste. Anyway, the match..

A lot has been said on the decision to bring on penalty takers so late and of choosing Saka as the fifth; I think it’s right, it was a bad call. Even if Saka put his hand up, he should’ve either been told he’s not taking one or not given that one. There’s enough talent in that team that you can’t say he was needed to take it, he’s only off his breakthrough season and has never even kicked a ball in the Champions League. Ridiculous. There were bad decisions made earlier in my opinion though.

Southgate has been derided for using a back three in the past, but I don’t think it’s a bad move by itself at all, it’s how you use it. It was used against Germany and they won 2-0 but with some crucial differences; England attacked with it. England had 46% possession compared to the German’s 54%, but that in itself doesn’t show the full story: England had 173 passes in the opposition half, compared to the Germans 147 in England’s half. England were higher, they kept Germany in their own half; they controlled the German possession to be harmless. Germany had 5 shots. Last night, Italy had 65% possession, but had a whopping 409 passes in the England’s half, compared to England’s 152 in their’s. Also, what is particularly damning is that Italy had almost 100 more passes in England’s half than in their own (317), proving their passing wasn’t being controlled to their own half in a harmless way like in the Germany game. Italy had 19 shots.

This is where other problems show. If you are going to cede that much ground and possession, then Mount isn’t the right pick, nor is Kane in my opinion. If your three attackers are going to be starting from that deep, they need to be quick and able to dribble to carry the team forward and scare the defenders; Italy only had to worry about Sterling. They’d take Kane playing passes from deep (even if everyone else think that’s a good thing) because it meant the other attackers were isolated. They didn’t follow Kane to deep for this reason. If you’re going on the counter, Rashford and someone else as a false nine needs to play. Against Germany, the full backs were high, Kane could stay higher and his lack of pace didn’t hurt the team because he could play passes from higher and still get in the box. Against Italy, the full backs were low, Kane was low and balls forward just became punts to Sterling that came back to them.

Italy changed to a false nine to good effect because they were higher up the pitch; Chelsea, City and Spain do use it too. If you’re using a false nine for a possession controlling team, it leaves defenders with a headache, if you’re using it as a counter attacking team they need to be fast to carry and catch up with play. Italy’s midfield also ran the game not just in terms of ability but because they were 3 against 2. Against Germany it was 2 vs 2. Italy could pull Rice and Phillips out of position because there was no one designated to fully help them. If Mount was playing, I think it needed to be in a 4231, otherwise a faster player with better dribbling that hones in on the goal. Mount is more a creator, Kane was used as a creator (no shots attests to this), but Sterling can’t do all that himself.

All in all, I don’t think he should’ve went to the back 3 unless he wanted to press higher or use a real false nine to also help Rice and Phillips. It could’ve worked but not as it was used.
James, Galway 


So many positives for England throughout the tournament and it feels the wrong time to criticise Southgate right now, so I’ll do it indirectly by praising Mancini for his brave substitutions that looked beyond the name on the shirt. He subbed Immobile, Insigne, Verratti, arguably three of the biggest ‘names’ in the Italian team. Be it for tactics or fatigue, in a game the subs are the single biggest impact a manager can have, well done Mancini, he’s proven himself a manager of the highest calibre in what he has done with this Italian side.
Mark S

Roberto Mancini Italy

An Italian on England…
Firstly, commiserations to England. The best 2 teams were in the final and it was a shame how it had to end. I know acutely the pain of watching your team lose a final on penalties, with 94 burned deeply into my memory.

You may (or probably not) appreciate a view from the opposition and a few hard truths about Southgate. You may already get mails like this with the summary being that he’s a great leader but poor tactician and even worse game manager.

This tournament was there for the taking. The England squad had an embarrassment of attacking riches, with a decent amount of their bench being good enough to start for Italy. They were at home and had a favourable route to the final. This is probably one of the weaker Italian sides i’ve seen play, their squad was very small (just look at who we had to cover Spinazzola) and their bench consisted of players who wouldn’t get near the England squad.

England should have stamped on our necks when on top (and Italy were badly rattled) in the first half. A second half here would have killed us off. Though the biggest mistake was going very passive once ahead (particularly in the second half) and then not using the bench to try and win it in extra time. Penalties only ever favoured the away team in that cauldron.

The good news for England is that this squad remains young and extremely talented. They’ve been in the final 4 for the last 2 tournaments and I expect them to be at the tail end for the next few. With the right manager who’s a bit more positive/proactive in the game, i’d expect them to go far again. Keep the faith. Teams often go close a few times before winning it…
BW, Gez Errico


The English don’t deserve this football team…
F365 weren’t exactly in the mood for views on Italy’s fortunes in the mailbox prior to the match so who knows if this will get printed. I wrote in to say: “Spain were better than Italy on the night and still lost. Scoring more than one against them AND keeping a clean sheet is going to take a Herculean effort.” And so it proved.  England’s team is a delight but the nation needs to do better if it is going to deserve to win a major tournament. Here is a sad list of the reasons why:

1. May have been the only fans booing multiple national anthems with the added disgrace of doing it in their own national stadium when they are hosts to guests. Also were the only fans to shine a laser in a goalkeeper’s face to gain an unfair advantage.
2. Managed to get the whole of Denmark to favour Italy, not just because of the dubious penalty and laser but because of insults, spit and vitrol hurled by so called fans at their Danish counterparts and even their children ( a Danish friend confirmed this).
3. Managing to alienate ordinary Londoners with aggressive behaviour “why arent you singing?” that also scared some of London’s children (London friends confirmed this).
4. Saying repeatedly and confidently  that you’re going to win in multiple fora, in complete disrespect to your opponents, despite ample historical evidence to the contrary. This really isn’t a good look. Trust me.
5. Incubating an immigrant hating subculture that was always sure that foreigners were ruining domestic talent, goes forgetful when the domestic talent actually flourishes with the added international competition, goes almost invisible when a few of those immigrants play for a winning England team but is lurking in the shadows ready to come out in spades if the team ever does badly.
6. Legal hypocrisy: Brexit’s lie about immigrants taking all the jobs and social services is somehow not legally applicable to footballers or other high profile professions and also somehow not applicable to the 3million+ from Hong Kong now just recently eligible to settle in the UK.
7. Families have been prohibited from visiting sick relatives in hospital and many sing Britons have died alone but 60,000 in a stadium  and several hundred in  venues all around the country is peachy.
8. A website not too far from here claiming that England deserved to win because of the country’s pandemic suffering, as if Italians and Spaniards weren’t incarcerated for months in their own tiny city apartments- something Brits never experienced even at the worst of times.
9. Raheem Sterling’s racist treatment by the British tabloids whenever it is convenient and those same tabloids always being beyond an apology or a change in tone.
10. The WW2 anti Germany references from the same tabloids somehow never get old just like the overconfidence from multiple quarters when things are going well.

This England team is in a great place to continue challenging for the World Cup and future international tournaments. If the fanbase could get its act together, the world will celebrate with you when England wins. If you don’t then everyone will be emulating the Scots (who set off a few actual fireworks last night- confirmed by seveal sources) in getting an unusual joyful satisfaction from backing you to lose and watching you do so.

Get a grip and grow up.
Miguel LFC


Winning the world cup or enjoying the moment?
Dear Football 365,

A lot of reaction to last night is being expressed in terms of “we’ve got hope for the World Cup”. But it needs to be said that the World Cup is an even bigger challenge and you’ve just been at a final. That isn’t hope, that’s achievement. But to go to the world cup with the attitude that you’ve got to win it to enjoy it will just heap pressure and misery on the England team.
Also, it’s hard to see how the second-best team in Europe (if that’s what England are) will suddenly be able to beat Brazil, Argentina or the resurgent European teams.

Rather than frame this in terms of hope of definite future victory, why not just talk about enjoyment? We’ve had very enjoyable games and results this tournament, obviously the last kick is a massive downer but England fans have had more to cheer than most. That, when you lose, is the best you can do.
Paul in Brussels (also need to beat defensive teams) 


England must learn from this…
Look I know the majority of people are not going to like what I’m writing here but I feel its the truth and sometimes the truth hurts.

England have had a really amazing run in this tournament and have done the country proud. Southgate has created an amazing spirit within this team too and I thank them for their efforts and all the great moments.

But a few points…..

1. It was very clear for nearly 15 minutes in the lead up to the goal from Italy that we needed to change something or they’d score. They were bossing the game and nothing we were doing was having any effect. If Southgate had made changes with fresh legs we could have swung the game back in our favour. He didn’t and then they scored and full momentum and belief was even further in the Italian camp, rookie mistake and hopefully Southgate learns from this.

2. Bringing on 2 players just for penalties was a mistake, especially Rashford and Sancho. At least give them ten mins to get into the game and warm up. Secondly Sancho has this whole transfer saga going on, for sure this will be weighing on his mind no matter what anyone says. Rashford has been terrible for the second half of the season. Yes it’s great what he’s been doing outside of football but in the UK we pump these players up too much on issues like this and ultimately their football suffers, this has happened and is impossible to argue with.

3. All I heard from the English media and fans before was “They’re winners even if they lose the final”. I live in the EU and this idea doesn’t exist anywhere else otherthan UK. If you lose we can be proud of you in the EU, but you’re still a loser. My brothers kids back in England all get trophies for finishing last at sports day in the name of “inclusion”, this type of mentality doesn’t exist in Germany or Italy and that’s why they consistently win. This squad has a lovely feel good philosophy but you have to be a Sergio Ramos style shi*house when the going gets tough and England just don’t have that, they’re just too nice.

4. Young England players earn too much money too quickly and as a result lack the extra 1% required to bring the bacon home when it really matters.

Thanks again to the England team for such a great effort, you’re losers now but if you learn from this I believe you can be winners next year.
Roberto, Spain, 55 years of hurt


Five stages of grief
In a vain attempt to move on with my life, I am now going to bypass my actual feelings and tell myself how I will now be feeling, by aggressively managing my grief at England’s loss last night.

Denial – well, that can’t be right.  Surely that man mountain Donnarumma is not human and thus cheating?  Chiellini garrotting Saka should have been an instant sending off and a charge of GBH and Jorginho putting his studs through Grealish’ knee was so sickening the game should have been stopped immediately – think of the children.

Anger – Before the football – can all the relentless ends of bell, who think being drunk and abusive and racism are okay, stop pretending to be football fans?  Ta.  When will an England manager learn that taking a lead does not mean you spend the remainder of the game camped in your own third watching the other team play?  This incredible crop of attacking talent coming through (not just in the squad, but also Greenwood, Maddison, Smith-Rowe, Hudson-Odoi…) will inevitably be wasted on a manger determined to play reserved, cautious, negative football…and as you have all said more adroitly than I can, the management of extra time and penalties was appalling.

Bargaining – We’ll let you have that one, but the World Cup is ours – okay?  Look, Messi’s had his moment now, the Italians have seen glory return – come on…?  This squad and management team have handled themselves impeccably (and the majority of fans), so come on karma? Please?

Depression – We’re done, aren’t we?  It’s a never-ending cycle of trying to be positive and support the team even when you’re not happy with the style of play, because you have to support the team, right?  But then you get knocked out because of that style of play.  It’s always going to happen to any England manager.  Just bring big Sam back and accept our fate.

Acceptance – I told my son last night that there are more import things in life than football.  And there are – like standing up for civil rights and showing basic human decency.  This team are a shining example of how to conduct yourself as professional athletes and coaching staff and we should all be proud of them.  I am proud of them.

Process it all and end there – Proud.


New England fans…
This was the first major tournament I’ve watched with my five year old, and over the course of the last month I’ve got to watch him fall in love with the game, understanding the joy that it could bring, and then, finally, how it can hurt you too.

Welcome to the club, son.


Bukayo Saka
I first saw Saka play in an U23s match at the Emirates around the time I started to see his name appear on team sheets in the final days of Arsene’s time in charge.

I’d actually gone to watch the U23s to see Reiss Nelson but it was Saka’s light which shone most brightly.

This morning I can only feel pride at what young Saka has achieved.

He’s gone from being ‘Who’s this guy Saka?’ at Arsenal U23 matches, to making his Arsenal debut, to being Arsenal’s main man, to being a integral part of this England team.

He now wears the number of my favourite Arsenal player of all time, the player who was most inspired by the mantra – ‘Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent’.

Bukayo Saka is a credit to his country, his club and to his family and friends and no penalty miss is ever going to change that.

All of these players are a credit to their country and every one of them should stand a little taller this morning – just remember – the last team to lose a home Euros in the final went on to win the World Cup.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

Jordan Pickford England

I choo choo choose Pickford
As a Liverpool fan I can honestly say Jordan Pickford was front and centre on my shitlist. He’s taken some pelters over the years off opposition fans for his somewhat lukewarm performances but after watching him in this tournament I can honestly say he’s been outstanding. Last night proved the reason why he’s England’s no.1, and my player of the tournament. Now I look back on the Van Dijk incident and just think “Ahh you cheeky little scamp” and ruffle his p***flap syrup.
Manny, Chester


How much more Rice? The answer is none
There is a scene in the fantastic Spinal Tap where the bands manager arrives with their new album. They discover there is no sleeve picture, instead it is left entirely black. It is a massive failure. After an initial shock they begin to contrive a reason as to why ACTUALLY this is a good thing.. Declan Rice is F365’s black album
Now Rice has done well for a player with clearly limited passing ability. He is athletic, disciplined and committed (admirably so for someone that played senior international football for another country). Last night he crunched into tackles, won the ball back and then..did nothing with it. He is a symptom being sold as a cure.
Tom Reeds article excellently points out the folly of focusing on Rice and his huff and puff style versus Jorginho and his quiet efficiency. This issue would have been highlighted much much sooner had England faced elite opposition in the knockout stages but it is an issue. Eventually the press will fail and someone will have to play football and Rice is not that man.
Dan L


Cruise control
Well that went badly
. For all the talk of Gareth Southgate’s big balls and the hailing of Raheem Sterling as Maradona reincarnate, rather than someone who runs around in ever decreasing circles before feebly scuffing the ball to the opposition or wide, we played exactly the same formation as we did against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final and adopted exactly the same tactic of scoring early and then conceding all possession and got exactly the same reward.

But worst of all we were once again subjected to Tom bloody Cruise. No wonder Mission Impossible 45 is taking so long to complete if all he does is hang around major sporting events with David Beckham. A cynical person might think that they’re probably not real friends and their management companies just arrange for them to get seen for publicity purposes. People in UK can see them and will say “Hey look there’s David Beckham with the implausible actor Tom Cruise. I thought Tom Cruise was a scientologist loony toon but look how normal he’s being. Admittedly he’s slapping his thigh a lot and laughing a little bit too hard at things that aren’t funny to prove just how normal and un-weird he is, which is not normal and weird, but generally he’s not acting like a complete freak or married anyone inappropriate yet, which reminds me I must buy some new ill fitting David Beckham pants from H&M“ and  people in the US will say  “Hey look there’s Tom Cruise with some guy which reminds me I must whoop unnecessarily loudly”

Beckham would make a great Bond though wouldn’t he? They should put that in the papers more often.
Rocky Foreshore


Wembley security
Amidst the debate around the tactics used by Southgate and the dreadful racial abuse of the players, it was evident from Miguel Delaney’s reporting last night and a number of videos circulating online that the security systems in place at the stadium failed. In that failure are fans, many of them children, who were exposed to the sort of conditions which can lead to serious injury or death.

The images of fans crushing at entrance points and children being punched and kicked inside the concourse are troubling and you have to wonder how it can happen.

Obviously the motivations for both incidents are different but twice in the past few months, major stadiums have been overrun by fans with little or no resistance from the police or security.

By default, this makes it appear that football stadiums in England are soft targets for individuals who would seek to enter those venues with the intention to do real harm.
Jamie, Eire


Racist scum
As an Englishman who has lived in Rome for 25 years, last night was a bitter pill to swallow. This morning though, having just read about the racist abuse of Rashford, Sancho and Saka, all I can say now is I’m glad we lost. If we had won, there wouldn’t have been the racist comments… now. But let’s face it, they would have just been delayed, any one or more of these three players (or any other non white player for that matter) WILL BE racially abused in the future. I don’t know the solution, but I do know there needs to be a fundamental change throughout English (British) society.
David, Rome


A team that did bring most of the nation together.

An articulate and clever manager that extolled humility and togetherness.

A group of players that, for the first time in decades, were likeable.

Moments of genuine excitement and memories that will live on.

And yet……

Social media is awash with vile racists comments from sad pathetic individuals that are given strength and comfort by senior politicians (Johnson, Patel, Raab etc) who publicly and proudly defend the right of these cretins to boo an action taken solely in solidarity of inclusion and celebration of diversity.

Lay off any criticism of the players and manager, and lets focus the outrage and disgust towards the members of this government that have gone out of their way to divide us, perpetuate their culture war and undermine the team.

They are a disgrace and we should all be ashamed of them.
MARK T (London)


So once again football fans (this time England fans) give a demonstration of why some players and fans think the knee is important – by racially abusing the brave players who stepped up to take a penalty.

Whether they missed or not shouldn’t be the point, they had the balls to take responsibility in one of the biggest games in the sport, and that should be applauded. How are they rewarded? With racist abuse after the game.

So all those people who wave away the boos by saying it’s about Marxism or the BLM organisation are wrong, and it’s their own fans who proved that point for them. It’s not about socialism, Marxism or any other flimsy excuse. It’s just people who want to oppose the idea of removing racism.

That being said it wasn’t all England fans so I don’t want to label them all as bad. That would be unfair, but until incidents like that stop happening there will always be some type of opposition to it. Don’t like politics in football? Stop bringing racism into OR admonish the people who do it.

That aside, I wasn’t emotionally invested in the game so I watched it as a neutral. I felt the teams were pretty even overall both in terms of effort and talent and both teams can be very proud of their efforts. England players need to remember how this feels because there’s a world cup round the corner and you can either let this experience craft a stronger you, or it can crush you and become a heavy weight, but you do get to choose which of those things happen.


I’ve been reading this mailbox since Jack was 15. I read it for the insight in not only football, but team tribalism, politics, sexism and more -isms. Basically any subject can come up in the esteemed mailbox, would be debated and then settled to return in a year or two.

I’ve gained a lot of different insights by reading these letters ten times a week and sometimes on sunday.

It has improved my grasp of the English language, enriching it with various idioms and flow I use in my job as a brand manager.

But right now, i’m disillusioned with the little englanders.
I feel sick to my stomach and I feel very sorry for you lot.

– Racist remarks aimed at your own players
– Booing players taking the knee.
– Booing the national anthem of a foreign team playing at Wembley, every time.
– and to top it all off, attacking Italian football fans…

This squad perpaps did deserve to win the thing, the only
trophy Kane ever won, the narrative of Southgate the Redeemed sure deserved it.. however, your society does not.

If this is what you call ‘home’, I’m glad football went to Rome.
Stijn, Amsterdam

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