Rewind three weeks to before the tournament, and most England fans (not the fairweather every two years there is a tournament so i’ll put a flag outside my house and paint my face for the boozer England fans) expectations were as low as I’ve ever seen for a major tournament, a new manager and key players missing the hope was that we would get out of a potentially tricky but winnable group. We won our group but never really played well (all good sides do this apparently).
The quarter final that awaited was to be the Italians which we were all happy about as we avoided Spain. The week building up to the game was all about Pirlo and the damage he could cause us if we give him too much space. Stevie G and Hodgson both saying in press conferences that we need to stop him. To every person watching Sundays game it was more than apparent that we didn’t stop him, he had far too much of the ball and literally dictated the game from start to finish. I’m not having a go at Roy Hodgson in particular as he has only had a few weeks with the squad but I do think he’s given us back a bit of fight that we never seemed to have under Capello but from the moment he picked his team with only two men in the middle of the park it was obvious that Pirlo was going to have the effect on the game he did. 4-4-2 doesn’t ever seem to work in International Football I think we are the only team to play it and its almost prehistoric, the fact that Italy had four men in the middle with Pirlo, Montolivio and Marchisio and De Rossi sat in front of the back four gave them the advantage in the middle of the park as they were essentially 4 against 2. This meant they controlled this area thus meaning that we never managed to get out wide players into the game. In the end we battled to a 0-0 and bravely went out the English way on penalties.
I know hindsight is a great thing but I would have liked to have seen England with a midfield 3 of Gerrard, Parker and Milner (I see his game more suited to a centre mid role than a winger) If we had done this we could have had Scotty Parker Man marking Pirlo with Milner sitting and Gerrard getting forward more. I’m not saying it would have worked but we may have shown a bit more going forward had we done this.
Overall I think we have improved since South Africa but only because we have got the passion for the Three Lions back, technically we are a million miles behind the leading Nations like Germany, Spain and Italy. Our ball retention is almost laughable but also the ability to press teams when they have the ball is non existent. We never had time on the ball against Italy as they closed us down as soon as we got the ball, Rooney especially had about 3 Italians on him every time he got the ball in the final third, we on the other hand just let them play with it.
There were positives that came out of the Tournament, Joe Hart’s performances cemented his place as number 1 and a top class goalie, Lescott matured as an international defender and Danny Welbeck showed signs that hes suited to playing in an England shirt. Gerrard was a good captain but because of the way we have played he seemed to be chasing the ball more than trying to dictate play as he should have been. Overall I think we can be proud of the boys for getting to where they did but if we ever want to win a major International tournament then we need to change the formation and the style we play, this isn’t going to happen overnight it will take time but the perfect blueprint for this is the Germans after the debacle of Euro 2000.
Thanks for reading my view (or rant depends how you see it), if you don’t agree with me feel free to comment below.