3353: Rooney Dismissal provides read
by : Jamie Mangan
As the dust settles on yet another World cup heartache, the nation is left once again to ponder on what might have been. The golden generation has failed to deliver, and there was a sense of deja vu as Portugal, and penalties put paid to English hopes once again.
As Wayne Rooney left the pitch after 62 minutes its is fair to say that England's hopes left with him. Yet this rush of blood to head from the 'golden boy' of English football was not the reason for the Three Lions' demise. This team packed with talented individuals has simply failed to reach the heights demanded of them.
Yet Eriksson, while admitting that a third successive quarter final is not good enough, claimed that yesterday's defeat was 'about two things: the red card and penalties.' Fair enough. England are seemingly unable to shake the penalty jinx that lies over them, and the majority of fans will have expected to see Portugal progress once the Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo brought the game to a close.
Rooney's red card, however, should not be deployed by the Swede as an excuse to explain English failure. We must not as a nation subject the young Manchester United star to the same media bloodletting that David Beckham experienced eight years ago.
While England were eventually, as our nation's newspapers will tell us, heroic in defeat, questions must be asked as to why the team were only able to produce a high standard of football once they were reduced to ten men, after Rooney had received his marching orders. For this, Eriksson and his coaching staff must shoulder a great deal of the blame.
There is little justification for criticism during a World Cup while the results are satisfactory. Take France for example. Les Bleus were far from inspiring during the first fortnight of the tournament, barely qualifying from a group that contained South Korea and Togo. Yet few are complaining now as Zinedine Zidane's wizardry has propelled his team into their fifth World Cup semi-final.
The performances never came for England though, and despite the assurances from Eriksson and his successor-in-waiting Steve Mclaren that we would get better, the unsuccessful team have now landed safely at Stansted airport, trophy-less and with only wounded pride in tow.
There are many questions that will be on the lips of the nation as to why England produced a string of such abject performances. What was the point of the international friendlies throughout Eriksson's reign and in the build-up to the tournament? You would think that an international manager would use such games to perfect a tried and tested system, yet Sven was still experimenting with formations with different personnel right up until England's exit.
The problems with the partnership between Lampard and Gerrard in the centre of midfield have been clear throughout qualification for this summer's tournament, so why was this pairing left intact for so long without the presence of a holding midfielder? Despite strong hopes that now would be the time to repeat the heroics of 1966, England simply were not adequately prepared for a successful campaign.
These problems, and many others were in evidence long before Rooney saw red, and would possibly have continued to haunt England in the latter stages of the tournament. One 'heroic' last stand does not, and must not be allowed to disguise the team's shortcomings. England will have to wait at least another four years for world cup success, and frankly, few will argue that they deserved otherwise.
2 July 2006