England’s World Cup exit was so

Croatia v England - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ - Match 62

predictable.

Yes, I wanna say I told you so and no I don’t wanna join in with all the happy clappers who are satisfied with this, no I don’t think they’re all heroes.

We’re told, after England lost to Croatia in last night’s World Cup semi-final, that this is not the end but the beginning, the beginning of a bright new era for England. Except if you read an interview with Chris Waddle in the week he thought 1990 was the start of a new era for England on the world stage.

Gazza never kicked a ball at a World Cup after that game against West Germany.

You don’t know what’ll happen between now and Qatar in four years time, you can’t pin your hopes on future what ifs, when you’ve got the chance right here and now. I mean for all we know in four years time Southgate could be sending out an XI with Walker, Young, Sterling and Henderson.

I said in the last post that Croatia can’t this poor for the third game running, they spent the first 45 minutes trying their very best to prove me wrong. In the end they didn’t, as England didn’t prove me wrong the numerous times I’ve posted that they’ll come to pay for not putting teams away when on top.

For all the post match talk from the Croats about English arrogance and how they controlled the game, at the end of the first half the game could have been all over. England dominated the half, Modric and Rakitic were spraying passes into touch, while Perisic and Rebic where reduced to wild shots, you didn’t even know Mandzukic was on the pitch.

You knew Lovren was, you just didn’t know how he managed to stay on the pitch. His first “tackle” was basically a common assault on Kane, which somehow didn’t bring the yellow it surely had to. The rest of his fouls throughout the game went similarly unpunished.

England again started brightly, only to again fade. Another early goal, after Dele went on a run and Modric thought no, you’re not going to do me again and took him down. Central to the goal, Trippier curled in a beaut of a free-kick, for his first goal for his country and his first for anyone in years.

The virtue signallers were out in force. Wasn’t Sterling amazing, he ran about a bit. He caused the Croatian centre-backs all sort of problems with his pace. Did he get behind them? Did he create anything with that pace? Did it lead to anything? Clive Tyldesley said “Sterling has the pace to beat anybody”, yes but he hasn’t the brain to beat an egg.

Ian Wright was banging on about how Kane should have passed the ball to Sterling when through on goal. Anyone else, maybe, Sterling… well the last time he was faced with an open goal just a few feet out he hadn’t a clue which foot to kick it with. Anyone honestly think the outcome would have been any different here.

When Lingard had a glorious chance later in the first half, which he should have done a lot better with, Sterling is offside and in such a position that he could have given the ref the ideal opportunity to chalk a goal off for interference.

But apparently we aren’t allowed to be happier when Sterling is replaced and all of a sudden there’s actual link up play between Harry, his strike partner and Dele.

Dele and Kane being slagged off for poor performances and yes both looked tired but if someone actually passed to Kane – which Sterling did once and Kane was so shocked he muffed it – or didn’t get in the way of Dele, then they would play better.

The same people also tell you how great Henderson was. Did he find any England player with a long forward ball? Or did he just find touch, every single time. Once Modric got into the game, Henderson was nowhere. One block doesn’t make up for the second half no show. Dear god, there’s always time for one more sideways pass.

Well at least they were sideways, look at Walker and Young. Back, back, back, back. The most regular pass between two England players must have been Walker back to Pickford. On the other side if I never see Ashley Young permanently facing his own goal for England again, it will be a joy. God, he was so ponderous on and off the ball. Just did nothing. Rose came on and did more in his first few minutes on the park than Young did all tournament.

I said in that last post about the two, Walker and Young, would struggle against what was against them defensively and it was telling that the cross came from Young’s side and Walker hadn’t a clue what was happening when he dawdled when Perisic poke in the equaliser. Then Walker with his pathetic leg block on one cross and then meandering in space as Mandzukic got the winner.

Permanently facing his own defence, Young just passed the ball back and started all the trouble at the back. Southgate’s idea of fannying about at the back never worked, no matter how they told us it did. It just invited trouble. Those at the back just aren’t good enough to do it. Yes Maguire had great moments but Stones goes flakey too often and Walker is a liability.

One question I was left to wonder was did a single England throw in go forward?

And there’s how predictable it was. A bright start, an early goal, a domineering performance and then a drop back, fanny about, bring on pressure and be unable to withstand it. All helped by Southgate dithering on substations, when he sees things aren’t working but can’t bruise certain fragile egos, to go with whatever he does to them at half-time that they always come out far worse than when they went in.

No, I can’t be happy clappy, because we don’t know when we’ll get to a semi-final again, it’s only the third time in a World Cup, only the fourth in any major knockout tournament. And the things, the players, you knew were wrong and would blow it, did so.

In the end the better side won on the night but the chance was there to finish them off before they even got into the game…

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