"You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one."
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Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp once said those words about England striker Darren Bent after he missed a golden opportunity in the Premier League. I’d lay dollars to doughnuts Fabio Capello is thinking the same thing right about now, because Bent surely cost England three points in their Euro 2012 qualifier versus Switzerland on Saturday at Wembley.
If you didn’t watch the match, close your eyes and envisage the following: A slow rolling ball, an open goal, Bent all alone, about seven yards out. End result? Row Z!
Bent’s only consolation from the sorry 90 minutes is that at least England didn’t lose. Somehow, the Three Lions salvaged a point after going down two-nil. With Montenegro surprisingly dropping points at home to Bulgaria, Group G sits exactly the same as when play started on Saturday. England tops the group.
In other words, Capello still controls the destiny of the national side, which (from where I’m sitting) isn’t exactly comforting for one simple fact: England aren’t good enough to compete with the elite of world football.
It’s time for myself and supporters of English football to come to grips and realize that the national team are (at best) just about capable of a World Cup quarterfinal place, and that’s taking into account large slices of luck. The notion that we’re a serious contender is a marketing ploy by an inept Football Association to sell more shirts. That is the painful truth.
Our coach, Capello, looks caught in multiple minds and seemingly doesn’t know how to relate to his players. One minute he’s preaching discipline. The next, players should be taking holidays. He can’t settle on a captain, and without Wayne Rooney, he doesn’t have a Plan B.
The number one goalkeeper – Joe Hart – is young, raw, and prone to catastrophe, as demonstrated by his inability to stop a couple of pedestrian free-kicks. Okay, let’s give Tranquillo Barnetta credit but seriously: Would the worst ponytail in football – David Seaman, England’s last recognized decent keeper – have let those two efforts in?
Our backline is experienced, but the way the Swiss walked through reminded me of a certain kind of cheese. Rio Ferdinand’s legs are gone, and he can’t realistically think he’ll be around longer than 2012. Glen Johnson is great going forward but doesn’t look international quality when it comes to what he’s in the team for (defending), while the Chelsea duo of John Terry and Ashley Cole just look tired.
In the midfield, Jack Wilshire oozes class and remains the one shining light; however, according to his club manager (Arsene Wenger), he is seriously close to burn out. Elsewhere in that critical engine room, Frank Lampard is desperately close to his sell-by-date, as is West Ham’s Scotty Parker. Despite his sensational season for the Hammers, Parker cannot expect to remain in the team while playing Championship football. That’s not realistic.
Is a fit Steven Gerrard the answer to England’s midfield problem? At 32, I’m afraid not. Read Frank Lampard.
Then there are the forwards.
Minus Rooney, it’s almost embarrassing to the point of recalling Michael Owen. I’ve already mentioned Bent’s prowess in front of goal, while someone needs to tell Theo Walcott that it might help if his ball control could somehow coordinate with his speed.
As for James Milner, the less said the better. The Manchester City player obviously does not have the intelligence to play international football, as he demonstrated on Barnetta’s second goal. What possesses a player to break a two-man wall? That was a joke!
Amongst the substitutes used, Leighton Baines and Ashley Young certainly looked the part and hopefully have advanced claims for further inclusion; however, that still leaves four to five places that must addressed.
Instead, Capello blamed the performance on exhaustion, but looking elsewhere in Europe, the likes of Germany, Holland and Spain aren’t complaining of that problem.
That is the chasm facing England. Until a radical rethink of the national team program occurs, this kind of inquest will become more and more frequent.
In all reality, England will probably still qualify for the finals, and we’ll forget their struggles while boasting that a run for the Euro title is possible. Rinse and repeat as another inquest starts around June 20, 2012!
My missus asked me why England are so inconsistent. I said it was because we have become delusional. We think we have divine right to play with the best in the world because we have the best league in the world.
Unfortunately, the two don’t go hand-in-hand.
Nick Webster is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the Barclay’s Premier League and the English national team.