Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lions In The Winter, Lambs In The Summer

England is so frustrating for me. Thankfully, I am not the only one feeling this way. The 25,000-strong travelling English supporters made their feelings known by booing the team off-field after the Three Lions' poor showing against Algeria.

Perhaps Michel Platini was right after all with his comment that England was like lions in the winter but lambs in the summer. England was devastating during the World Cup qualifiers, romping to victories against Croatia and the rest. Under Capello, it would seem that England  players had rediscovered the art of translating excellent club performances into international prominence. Qualification was won without breaking a sweat prompting expectations of winning the World Cup in South Africa to skyrocket. That expectation is currently crippling this England team.

Worse of all, even Fabio Capello is affected by the hope of the entire nation. All through qualifying, he had been the calmest man in the stadium. Here in South Africa, he has been very animated and the facial expressions tell him that the England team he had shaped over the last two years is now reverting to shrinking violets in the face of high-pressure competition.

Dropping the trusted Theo Walcott, selecting King and Carragher indicate that Capello was also feeling the pressure as the tournament drew near. Not playing Upson alongside Terry though they had done so well in qualification, is a question only Capello can answer. Carragher expected to just act as cover but instead he has been called upon for England's first two matches, picking up automatic suspension in the process.

There was nothing of note that England did against Algeria. Rooney was well-marked but he has been a pale shadow of his usual self in these finals. Opposition now know that if they shut down Rooney then England stops scoring. Frank Lampard, for so long an awesome force in the Premier League, has mental block when it comes to international matches. Steven Gerrard is at his best as a second striker behind Rooney.

Capello also dropped Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker from his final 23. He must rue his decision now as Huddlestone has qualities to keep possession and launch attacks with his precision passing. England would have kept possession better with Hudd in the side. Scott Parker would have been the ideal cover for Barry. The USA's goal could have been avoided if Parker was picked. The task now for Capello is to bring back the "England" from the World Cup qualifiers.

Will Fabio Capello turn to Joe Cole to reinvigorate England which had impressed so mightily during the qualifiers? Joe Cole is probably the only player in the England squad who could inspire the sort of turnaround that Gazza produced for England in 1990.

Growing up watching English football, my loyalty towards the England team borders on the incomprehensible. Hence, I am still positive about their prospects of progress into the Round of 16. England could still top Group C if they win and other results go their way.

The stage is now set for Joe Cole. Bring on Slovenia!

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