27 June 2010

England 1-4 Germany

Johnson Terry Upson ACole
Milner Lampard Barry Gerrard
Defoe Rooney

Lahm Friedrich Mertesacker Boateng
Khedira Schweinsteiger
Müller Özil Podolski

Klose 20'
Podloski 33'
Upson 37'
Müller 67' 70'

Isn't football fun?

Thanks to those two second half goals on the break with England over-committed, Germany are deserved winners, but let's still get 1966 out of the way now. 1966's "Wembley-tor" was a decision by inches. Today's strike was a yard over the line. 2-2 at half-time could have completely changed the game, but yes, that's football. Let's thank Sepp Blatter for keeping our game pure as driven snow by refusing video replay or Hawkeye technology.

And yes, were Terry and Upson able to defend in the first third of the game, it might be moot. "Schoolboy defending" is offensive to schoolboys everywhere. Upson looked shell-shocked to be there (and redeemed himself with his very good header), while Terry was stupidly caught up-field on both goals, evidently under the impression he was a midfielder. Until England pulled one back, they all looked every bit the tactically inept, overpaid wankers everyone loves to portray them as.

But then Upson scored from Gerrard's cross on a short corner, and England should have been level seconds later when Lampard's chipped shot hit the crossbar and bounced three feet over the line. But with the linesman 30 yards up-field and the referee with his head up his ass, Neuer was able to collect as if nothing happened. England righteously huffed and puffed for the rest of the half, but were unable to recreate the heroics which should have seen them level as the Germans admirably regrouped.

And in the second half, after Lampard again thumped the crossbar in the 52nd minute, Germany punished them like unruly teenagers who stole the family minivan when England sent men forward in an attempt to equalize. Within a span of three minutes, it went from 2-1 to 4-1 after Müller scored twice. First, Schweinsteiger found the Munich striker open on the right after Barry was undressed just outside the German penalty box, thundering a near post shot that James couldn't keep out. Then, after a long punt forward, Özil ran at, then past, Barry – the only defender in the England half until Ashley Cole attempted to sprint back – before centering for an easy tap-in. Game well and truly over. The final 20 minutes were a mere formality; the only question whether Germany could mirror the 5-1 scoreline from World Cup qualifying in 2001. When your response to a three-goal deficit is to replace Defoe with Heskey, you shouldn't even bother.

There's little point discussing tactics in a match like this, but it was further proof that England's 4-4-2 does not work on the big stage. Gerrard on the flank left massive gaps exploited in the first two goals. England were flat, unable to pick up Özil, and easily beaten in defense. Rooney looked lost whether partnering Defoe or Heskey. Gerrard should have been behind Rooney as a lone striker, Joe Cole should have been in the team from the beginning. But I may be biased having sounded that note for weeks now.

The question is where England goes from here. The majority of this generation – Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Terry, James, Joe Cole, Heskey and potentially Ashley Cole, among others – will probably be too old for the 2014 tournament. A few won't even make the next Euro squad. I'm tempted to suggest Capello's gone as well, but that's probably more in the hope England hires Hodgson so Liverpool doesn't.

Needless to say, there will be questions asked, both of England and of FIFA, and deservedly so.

Ze Germans. It's always ze Germans.


Matt said...

I'm not sure how to feel about this game. Putting aside the obvious goal and all discussion about replays/video/line referees. Germany was better, much better. From a neutral standpoint, they deserved the win. I was pulling for England, but they really mucked it up.

I have to say, on paper, England looked unbeatable, but it didn't translate onto the pitch. I didn't see much chemistry, from anybody really. Which of course brings up the cliche of a group of individual stars and not a team.

Nate, you said there is little point in discussing tactics, after a game like that, I understand. But I think Capello fell into the trap of putting as many stars on the pitch as he could. Gerrard was not working on the wing. He cut inside too much, leaving the wings exposed. Rooney was ineffective as a strike partner regardless of who he was with. I think Capello, if he was determined to stay in the 4-4-2, should have taken Gerrard out. If not Gerrard, then Lampard or Barry. Or put Barry or lampard on the wing. But Gerrard was not helping the team on the wing. I didn't see the managerial instincts from Capello to see a problem and change it.

England's midfield was the main culprit of England's poor performance. They failed to close down opponents, specifically against Germany. And regularly left the back four exposed (here's looking at Gerrard.) Don't get me wrong. I love Gerrard; he's my favorite player. But, from a managerial standpoint, he (along with others) was mis-used. You wouldn't use a steak knife to perform a surgery. Sure, any knife will work, but it's not the right tool.

While the media might have had Capello's head for leaving out someone like Gerrard or Lampard, I don't think he's in much better position now. I'd have used a true winger, one who wouldn't leave the wingback exposed.

Frankly, I think a change of formation would have worked better with the squad that Capello had.

England had two pints of strategic failure: Build up, and width. I'm not sure how familiar you all are with basketball, but there are two types of offense: fast break and half court. Fast break is self-explanatory; its fast, dynamic. Players push the pace and the ball. Half court offense is slow, methodical, technical. I saw a lot of half court offense from England; slow build up and ultimately, a lot of standing and passing around. Think about the stereotypical EPL game. Fast, direct, physical. Most, if not all, of the England squad play in the Premier League, and are used to playing quick, direct football. Not sure if this was Capello's doing, but it did happen.

Second, England had little to no width. Gerrard constantly cutting in, Cole forced to provide width, and Milner didn't have much of an impact (at least as I saw). So much play was clogged up and snuffed out in the middle of the pitch. England didn't stretch the Germans. And I would argue that when England did score (both goals) that they were pushing, and pestering the German defense.

OK, armchair manger rant over.

nate said...

Yeah, I phrased that inartfully, especially since I went on to discuss tactics in the rest of that paragraph. Was trying to say that tactics were always going to take a backseat to the refereeing controversy, and the tactical complaints were the same ones I've been making all tournament.

Not much I disagree with in your thorough post (except thinking England looked unbeatable on paper, natch). Chemistry sucked, 4-4-2 was insipid, Gerrard questionable on the flanks especially in flat midfield. Yet another manager who can't find a way to fit Gerrard and Lampard in the same midfield at a major tournament. Can't wait until that debate ends.

Basketball analogy is interesting as well, although it's tough to run a fast break offense after a full season, especially one as tough as the Premier League.

channel sales strategy guy said...

that was a bad call... all the people saw the ball come in... the game wouldve been different and bettter than that if the goal was called... INSTANT REPLAY!!!

TimC said...

Perhaps another basketball analogy comes into play here; the similarities of the England team and the failures of USA basketball on the international stage in 2004 (Athens Olympics) and the World Championships in 2006. Those teams ultimately failed because too many parts that did not fit together were thrown onto the same court and asked to work together.

Like you guys have been saying about England, at this level it becomes more about fitting together the right players to make a team, not the best individual players. I can't help but think that, if England and Brazil traded player pools leading up to this tournament, Capello would have found a way to stick Ronaldinho on the left side of midfield in a 4-4-2.

The hidden problem might be the nature of UEFA qualifying. Outside of Africa, the other confederations use a qualifying system where all the top sides, generally, get at least two games against each of the other top sides in the build-up to a World Cup. UEFA, however, divides the teams up so a team such as England is rarely tested in important matches against strong sides. Had England been forced to play the top opponents in meaningful matches consistently in UEFA like Brazil does in CONMEBOL or USA does in CONCACAF (or had they just qualified for the Euro) I would bet that some of these issues would have been identified and figured out by the coaching staff before the tournament.