Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Don't blame Ronaldo for England's shambolic performances in Germany.

Its been almost three days since England were knocked out of the world cup. I have been busy, but I decided against my usual tactic of posting in the almost immediate aftermath of the event. If I had, it would almost certainly have been merely a list of expletives targeted against a certain Msr. Cristiano Ronaldo.

But I thought no, I’ll wait, I’ll soak in the post-game fall-out that only truly emerges in the days after England’s exit. And, sure enough, scapegoats emerged - notably, the primary target. The figurehead or the moment which supposedly encapsulates the reasons for England’s failure. Since 1990 these have been the primary targets:

1990 – Stuart Pearce/Chris Waddle’s penalty misses

1992 – Graham Taylor – particularly for substituting Gary Lineker

1994 – Graham Taylor

1996 – Gareth Southgate

1998 – Becks

2000 – Phil Neville

2002 – Slightly more complex. A mix of Sven, Becks [for jumping out the tackle], but, overall, ‘the heat’ of Japan and Korea.

2004 – Rooney’s broken foot.

2006 – Ronaldo getting Rooney sent off.

Obviously, not all these persons have been scapegoated in equal measure. Phil Neville and Gareth Southgate may have become near synonyms for disaster and failure in the English football lexicon, but they were never subjected to the hate campaigns that Becks received in 1998, and that Ronaldo will probably receive. The Sun have already published a dartboard cover with his face on it, encouraging his readers to ‘give the tart a dart’. Funny? Perhaps at some base level – but does Ronaldo really deserve this level of hatred? In any case, these moments/people have been taken as excuses for our failures. ‘If only it’d been cooler in Japan’, ‘if only Rooney hadn’t broken his foot’, ‘if only Southgate had scored’ we’d have won. This may be truer in some cases – but what about Ronaldo’s actions?

As most sensible reporters have done, lets review his actions. Rooney had just committed a challenge worthy of a red card, by violently stamping on Carvahlo’s testicles. Ronaldo shouldn’t have run up to the ref to encourage a card [of course he did, he’s lying if he said he didn’t] but do you think the England players would have done nothing if the situation had been reversed? And does this excuse Rooney blatantly raising his arms to another player in front of the referee? Ronaldo was just playing the modern game which, much as we detest it, English players seem hopelessly incapable of getting used to. I’m not saying we should all start diving – as Ian Wright would have it – but if English players lash out at cheating, they’re playing into their opponents’ hands. All the Portugese players knew that Rooney has almost no fuse, let alone a short one. And when this was compounded by Sven playing him ridiculously out of position, it was only a matter of time before he blew. But you don’t see dartboard covers of Sven or Rooney do you? Rooney couldn’t hold his temper, even in the biggest game of his career, while Sven continued to show he has no tactical sense at all. Why shouldn’t Rooney be blamed? If we don’t chastise him now, at what critical moment will he next lose his rag? I'm not condoning Ronaldo's actions , but he was far from the cause of our failure against Portugal.

Sven is not a total idiot. He can be given some credit for sticking by Owen Hargreaves who – and I admit my mistake in writing him off earlier in the tournament – was England’s best player, not just of the match but of the entire tournament. If he could improve his distribution he could be a fantastic holding player. The only other players to come through this debacle with enhanced reputations are John ‘I must be made captain’ Terry, Ash + Joe Cole, and Aaron Lennon. Rio and Gary Neville weren’t abject, but hardly set the world on fire. The rest of the squad seriously underperformed, and I think Sven must be largely held responsible.

Sven can’t do anything about Becks and Lamps loss of form, but he could have dropped them. He didn’t. He could have realised that his marking system was a shambles. He didn’t. He should have realised that changing formations on the eve of the world cup was a mistake. He didn’t. He should have realised that taking only 4 strikers – one of which he obviously had no intention of playing – was sheer folly. He could have tried to get his players to actually play football. Not just knock it around for three or four passes then try a Hollywood ball up front. He could have screamed at Rio Ferdinand to stop taking twenty seconds on the ball, before hoofing a failed long ball over the top every time he had the ball in space. He didn’t. He could have realised that making English players try and play Italian football was hopeless. This has been clear for some time – yet he persisted.

You watched the best teams in the world cup and they played tight passing football, focused on keeping the ball, and either waiting for opportunities to play incisive through balls [note – not hoofed balls over the top] or making quick breaks based on fast, accurate passing.

England’s attack was pathetic in contrast. Against Trinidad, for some 80 minutes, you could have been forgiven for thinking Ferdinand was our playmaker. It was embarrassing. Against Sweden, I wanted England to lose because we were playing so poorly: I thought it might give the side a kick up the backside. But no. We couldn’t even score against a pathetic Portugese side that were so poor that we looked more threatening with ten men. This has to come down to coaching, because the England players are good enough to play decent football together. Too often they looked like 11 individuals, and not a team, however.

This has been England’s worst world cup performance since I started watching football in 1990. We didn’t beat one quality side and we played poorly throughout. I was embarrassed to be an England fan, and it wasn’t until the last hour of the match against Portugal that I really felt any great desire to get behind the team. We were never going to win the shoot-out, despite my one moment of hope when Portugal missed two, and Gerrard stepped up. That Gerrard can belt home penalties for Liverpool [well, except against Jens], score last minute thirty yard screamers in cup finals, and drive Liverpool to win a Champions League final, and yet can cut a continually anonymous figure for England who misses in the shoot out, has to come down to the management. He cannot be completely absolved for the almost astounding waste of his talent at international level, but given England’s tactics, and especially Lampard’s one dimensionality, the onus of blame is not on Stevie.

I have a horrible feeling that a golden generation of players could be squandered through the efforts of McClaren and Sven. It’s almost been too much to bear seeing Venables and O’Neill in the TV studios this summer, while a mediocre manager leads out national side.

The same excuses are trotted out at the end of the tournament, but they contrast markedly to statements given at the beginning. We always, rightly, hear that England weren’t good enough at the end of the tournament, but a full investigation as to why this is never occurs. Especially when we’re told earlier in the tournament by Becks that England supposedly ‘deserve’ to reach the final. How? On what basis did we ‘deserve’ to do well? I strongly suggest this excellent article by Richard Williams, which continues the theme of this point.

England entered the world cup believing, perhaps too strongly, that they had a squad capable of winning the competition. Perhaps they did, but English players have to stop believing that their time will come, and actually make it happen. We can all sing ‘football’s coming home’ but I think a lot of our players either have too little or too much belief to make it actually happen. The only hope for the future is, hopefully, Terry’s captaincy, and, one day, a manager who both understands how to get the most from the English players, and also what football means to people in England. In short, don’t blame Ronaldo. He’s a symptom, not a cause of our decline. As long as shallow reasons for out continual failure are looked at, England will never improve.


Anonymous said...

no one blames Ronaldo except our racist tabloids - England were so poor i was glad when they lost to put us out of our misery...
what an arrogant bunch of cry-babies

Anonymous said...

Why were England so abject. Because we should have had too strikers. As Sven could only pick 11 players and would not drop one of his favourites one of the strikers had to be dropped to include the dismal Lampard. A player who would struggle to get into the Ukraine team. I will never mention Lampard again or until the next misguided England manager picks him.
As I have said on many occasions. English players cannot play a pasing game. They are suited to a dynamic high tempo game. Thw team should therefore be built around Rooney and Gerrard. Hopefully Venables will become invovled and give the management some much needed authority over the players.
Ashley Cole should be England captain.

Anonymous said...

I think he knew what he was doing and took a liberty...

Notice his "playful" headbutt on Rooney before they kicked off???

If that wasn't trying to wind him up, what is!

He wanted to provoke a reaction, and got what he wanted.

I think the wink to the bench was a "told you so!".

Rooney is a professional (allegedly!) and should have behaved accordingly.

Anyway Rooney has accepted Ronaldo's apology - see link ttp://img78.imageshack.us/img78/3812/cristianoronaldo018sz.jpg

Leocardo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Leocardo said...

Those would be excellent scapegoats if England have made it to a single final in a competition. Take for instance Beckham in 1998: England fans claim their team didn't win the World Cup because of Beckham. And that was only after the round of 16.

Anonymous said...

Rooney wasn't fit mentally - if you can't take being wound up by your own team mates then you should just get another job... hod carrier??

he is a pea brain...

i never thought i would say this due to his Spurs connections but Venables is the only decent manager England have had and what did they FA do? sack him of course - the players loved him & performed for him and he managed to give them fighting spirit so sadly lacking when being coached by someone who makes Mr. Spock look like he's on cocaine

Anonymous said...

What a blame culture we have in this country, I'm surprised the media aren't trying to blame Islam (not yey anyway). The fact is England belong to a cluster of European teams; Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal and Nehterlands, they are no better than any of these teams. It's just the tabloid media hype up England's chances, overinflate expectations so that they can shift some shirts/ car flags. Thankfully, I long since stopped bothering with the national side and I'm glad they're out so this incessant hysteria can stop. Why was Beckham subjected to a disgraceful hate campaign and Rooney is considered innocent. The FA are even going to appeal the red card and WR refuses to accept responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Instead of wasting time with phoney newsnight allegations, why don't FIFA reprimand and investigate Real Mudrid? They have a moral arrogance which makes Chelski seem almost kind of dignified!

Anonymous said...

Not Ronaldo, who to blame!?

If you review again the who;e match, portugal player keep playing dirty trick!! Handball but no penalty given; face 'hurted' while the player fall down by himself, england player didnt even touch the portugal player; the bal is out but still show his innocent face and angry on others; keep on falling down.....The referee was so fare up with their tricks, but why just let it be!? Referee should show cards on these dirty tricks!!

The portugal player push rooney but not fouled, but rooney try to react from their dirty push and fouled.

For all commentor, please review the whole match again before comment!! You will get the answer, Ronaldo is Lier, lack of sportmanship as described by Martin Jol

Anonymous said...

Of course stamping on another players bollocks is not a dirty trick, its the upmost example of English sportsmanship. Joe Cole getting Ljungberg booked in the Sweden game through feigning injury, good old English fair play. Gerrard diving for a penalty in a friendly, good old fashioned ingenuity. But registering your disgust at seeing one of your players stamped on, booooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!1

Kerrie said...

I'm not trying to condone Ronaldo's actions, but if you were playing and you saw someone stamping on your mate's balls could you honestly say you wouldn't get involved? Its a sad fact of the game that players will crowd the ref, which doesn't make it right, but get over it, it happens world over. Even the England players do it. Anyone remember what Owen Hargreaves was booked for later in the game? oh yeah, it was due having a go at the ref because his teammate was fouled.

And if you do what the writer has suggested and take a step back and review the actions later, you'll notice Ronaldo was walking towards the Portuguese bench whist winking in the other direction. I don't doubt there was something amiss, but people need to get their facts straight!

Its a very sad day to be English when some people think that the most immoral person was the guy standing up for his team mate (however inappropriate), not the guy who reacted violently to not one, but two players. These sadly tend to be the people I stand next to week in week out at the games.