England closed out their World Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica. With that draw, Costa Rica wins Group D with seven points and Uruguay become runners-up with their controversial win over Italy. The game meant nothing for England as they had no chance of advancing to the knockout stage.
Roy Hodgson and the England squad did not have quite the pressure put on them this World Cup compared to previous years. However, many fans will still view this World Cup campaign as another failure. England looked average through all three games. There were times they played good and then times that they fell apart. Focusing mainly on the two games that mattered, this is the England Group Stage Recap.
What Was Missing?
England seemed to have all the ingredients in the team to have a good World Cup. The pressure was off the team, Hodgson had a good mix of youth and experience, and England finally had the potential for a potent attacking force. In the end, it seems that two crucial things were missing from the England team.
Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were employed by Roy Hodgson to sit in the middle of the park and both assist the back line as well as build and create chances for the attacking players. They were meant to be the glue of the squad. It was clear in both the Italy and Uruguay matches that they failed to accomplish that task. Too often they were unable to contain the opposition’s midfield play which then led to chances on the England goal. They were also unable to consistently build and create chances out of the England midfield.
Play was too slow and was never sustained long enough to cause that many problems for the opposition’s defense. Watching both the Italy game and the first half of the Uruguay game, it seemed that the England team played as three separate entities. Joe Hart and the back four, Gerrard and Henderson, and then the front four of Welbeck, Rooney, Sterling, and Sturridge, just never seemed to mesh like a good team should. I am not putting the failure of the England team solely on the shoulders of Gerrard and Henderson but they never quite accomplished the task of being the glue of the England team.
Prior to the World Cup there seemed to be a witch hunt for Wayne Rooney’s head. People right and left were calling on him to be dropped so that England could have a good run in the World Cup. As it turns out, the witch hunt masked the true problem of the England squad. England’s defense was its downfall. Focusing again on the games that mattered, Hodgson started Johnson-Cahill-Jagielka-Baines with Joe Hart in net for both the Italy and Uruguay games. For a large majority of both of those games the defense ,along with the help of the midfield, played well. The combined chances on goal by both Italy and Uruguay were relatively small in number. It was the soft goals that England conceded that proved to be the hurdle that they could not overcome.
In BOTH games it was two lapses in concentration that cost England. The first goal Italy scored was not exactly a soft goal but it could have been avoided if an England player would have stepped out to close down Marchisio instead of allowing him to receive a driven ball off a corner kick, take a touch, look up and slot it home into the side netting. The second goal was a soft goal because Mario Balotelli caught the England centerbacks ball watching and was able to drift behind them and nod home a cross from Antonio Candreva. The first goal from Uruguay nearly mirrored Balotelli’s goal. It was SIX England defenders versus Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez.
Cavani was allowed to take five or six touches before lifting his head and lofting a chip back post to Suarez who drifted in behind the England back four and nodded it home. There is no way that Cavani should have been given that amount of time and Suarez been left with that much space. The second Uruguay goal was also a soft goal. England had fought back to tie the game and at the time looked like they had the momentum to go ahead and earn three points. Against the run of play and off of a goal kick, the ball flicked off Gerrard’s head when he went up for a 50/50 challenge with Cavani. The ball flicked backwards and both Cahill and Jagielka were caught sleeping. Suarez slipped in behind them and rocketed the ball into the roof of the net. There should have been NO WAY that an in-form striker like Suarez should have had that much space so late in the game when England were set to get at least one point from the match.
Overall it was difficult to watch England exit this World Cup so early. There are teams making it into the knock out round that are perhaps worse than England, yet either were drawn into an easy group or have have a string of good results. England were unlucky to have been drawn into such a difficult group. They played in such a way that it seemed like they were always just short of making it over the proverbial hump and finally enjoying success. They just needed a moment or two of something special to push them through. Alas, those moments never came and the England fans are left waiting again for England to make their comeback.
The Future of England
Although this World Cup was a disappointment, England fans have had a glimpse of what the future holds. Hodgson is to stay in charge of the England team and he has quite a few youngsters that will surely be featured for many years to come. Sterling, Sturridge, Welbeck, Lallana, Wilshere, Jones, Shaw, Barkley and Oxlade-Chamberlain all have bright futures ahead of them. The armband will most likely pass to Rooney after Gerrard retires from international football. Hodgson and England fans will hope that with the strength of the young talent, England will finally be able to reestablish themselves on the world football stage.