Sunday 27 June
Germany 4:1 England
After the recriminations the clearest message is that Capello failed. He took the wrong squad and deployed them in an absurd fashion. He should be sacked.
England lined up in the same pigheaded manner they did against Slovenia. Gerrard still wasted on the left. A midfield two open to the Germans three. Many in the local bemoaned the player’s inability but this failure is squarely one of the manager. In fact he had the answer in the qualifiers when he lined us up 4-2-3-1 with fast attacking players wide. Here he shrank into his own preconceptions of England’s ability. Throughout the tournament he has stuck to the same formation that clearly did not work. He watched Emile Heskey flounder, a contribution of one pass in five games is a shocking indictment of the manager’s judgement.
For those of you who blame the players consider whether any of these players line up 4-4-2 with their clubs. Do any of them routinely lump it for a target man? This tournament was not a shambles because England do not produce good enough players. We know these players are world class because we watch them do it every year in the Champions’ League. Most of this squad have been measured in that competition against the best from Argentina, Germany and Brazil and have frequently mastered those players for their teams. The difference is simply formation and preparation.
Ashley Cole emerges from this World Cup with his head held high as having single-handedly defended England’s left hand side. Which is in itself a further indictment because Capello managed to create a system that hampered one of his best attacking talents by overloading his defensive responsibility. But the tactical mess goes deeper than just isolating Cole. All of these players play in squads with five in midfield, with cover for each position. Very few of the press commentators back home endorsed Capello’s 4-4-2 simply because of its obvious limitations. Attacking and defending in straight lines against fluid attacking play and packed midfields is doomed and obviously doomed. Don’t forget that the Italian coach watched these tactics fail against the USA, he saw the same set-up crash against Algeria and stuck with the same for a scrappy 1-0 against Slovenia. Not good enough to win that group should have convinced him that a change of formation was vital against the Germans. Instead we got more of the same. Watching his side flounder his response was to bring on Cole on the right and persevere with Gerrard on the left.
Capello’s tactical master plan not only included Heskey but the introduction of the hapless Shaun Wright-Phillips. The players he left at home speak volumes about his inability as a coach. Theo Walcott blows hot and cold but at least he has a hot, Wright-Phillips was simply out of his depth. Shaun’s club mate, Adam Johnson had a fantastic season with Manchester City and kept Wright-Phillips out of the side but wasn’t on the plane. Similarly, scratching around for cover for Gareth Barry, he called Michael Carrick and Scot Parker into the provisional squad. He ignored Parker, a far superior replacement for Barry, and took Carrick as a spare part.
Still his players tried their best in the lopsided mess Capello calls tactics. Out manoeuvred in midfield we at least scored two, although only one was given. We hit the bar, as Frank Lampard continued his ultimately futile attempt to score at a World Cup.
The rest was ridiculously easy for a talented German side presented with all the space they needed in midfield they simply accepted the gift. In scoring four Germany managed more in one game than Capello’s England side managed in the whole tournament.
If Capello had set out deliberately to undermine his squad he couldn’t have done it better. Joe Cole was scathing after the match, saying that there were issues that needed to be addressed before the next Euro qualifiers. Much was made of John Terry’s rebellion before the Slovenia game but it has become clear that the senior players missed an opportunity to force the manager’s hand. If they had backed John and forced the tactical changes, that everyone but Capello could see where urgently needed, perhaps we would have had a fighting chance.
As it is Fabio Capello single-handedly shot the last chance many of these players had at a successful World Cup and should be removed from the England post whatever the cost.
Argentina 3:1 Mexico
Another refereeing blunder undermined Mexico, the Central American’s were so distracted by Tevez’s opening goal that they lost discipline and concentration allowing Argentina a comfortable trip through to face Germany.
Monday 28 June
Hold the phone – Chelsea news
Sam Hutchinson has returned early to Cobham to work on his fitness. Sam has been dogged by injuries and is thankful that Ledley King has the same problem so he doesn’t have to keep explaining himself. He is in trying to get a head start and workout a training schedule with the physiotherapists.
Netherlands 2:1 Slovakia
Why did we ever let Arjen go, yes we know he cost a fortune in wages for the ten or twenty minutes on the pitch you get each season and Madrid offered us a small fortune, but he is still a cracking player. Here he simply got bored with his team fannying around and drove straight for goal to score himself.
Brazil 3:0 Chile
Uninspired and functional Brazil march on, Chile carried too many suspensions, got no luck at all and become the first South American team to go home.
Tuesday 29 June
Fabio Capello has been told to wait for two-weeks while the England board think it over. Hardly the ringing endorsement he might have been looking for. Perhaps the board want to review the video evidence because even now they cannot believe that Emile Heskey played in every game.
Roy Keane, contrary as ever, said he thought Capello was brilliant. To be fair Roy might be blinded by hatred for the English because he contradicted himself several times: “He is absolutely brilliant and England are lucky to have him” started the sage Irishman but he continued “Emile Heskey started the World Cup up front but he only scored three Premiership goals for Aston Villa”. Brilliant, eh.
Worse news is that Bolton motormouth Phil Gartside is backing Capello. Sadly, while Gartside might know next to nothing about football, he does carry weight at the FA.
Talking of fatuous windbags, Sepp Blatter announced he is going to reopen the debate about goalline technology, sometime next March. He apologised to the English FA and the Mexican FA but insisted that he would only look at whether the ball crossed the line not video replays. Why then apologise to the Mexicans, a chip inside the ball cannot tell the ref if a player is offside. Expect the game to struggle on in the dark until Blatter dies.
Paraguay 0:0 Japan
Paraguay wins 5-3 on penalties
The game had its flashes, actually the game stank throughout the first-half and a family emergency meant we only got back in time for penalties. It was heartening to see a penalty shootout again and you can’t argue with a side that scores all of theirs.
Spain 1:0 Portugal
There will be some heavy heads on the South Lambeth Road tomorrow as local rivals Spain teach another lesson to Portugal. Remember a chap called Ronaldo who used to score a lot of goals against Wigan, Bolton and West Brom but bottle the big occasions, yeah, apparently he was in this game somewhere but he seemed to want to sit down on the pitch rather than play.
Ricardo Carvalho couldn’t keep them at bay single handed and becomes the last Chelsea player home.
Wednesday 30 June
No football. Should you watch tennis or climb high into the sycamore
and watch the cormorants dip for sardines in the river? Choices. Bored.
Thursday 1 July
David ‘there is no doubt in my mind that Chelsea would be a great club to play for’ Silva signed a four year contract with Manchester City after a £25-30m deal with Valencia.
Roy Hodgson has been conformed as Liverpool boss for at least the next week as he candidly admits that new owners, always expected next week by the Liverpool board, could sack him and start afresh.
Friday 2 July
Thrills all round Stamford Bridge as Yossi Benayoun puts pen to paper after Liverpool agreed to take £5m-ish. Yossi has been an effective goal scoring midfielder but he will have to achieve some startling feats for many to forget that he has been brought in to replace Joe Cole.
Brazil 1:2 Netherlands
The orange half of the family explode in pure delight as Peter Drury’s mantra that Brazil are the natural champions bites him in the arse. Holland are simply better than the irritating show ponies who should have had two players dismissed instead of only one.
Uruguay 1:1 Ghana
Uruguay won 4-2 on penalties
Football lights up again as Ghana blew every chance of going to the semi. Two cracking goals, one from Sulley Muntari (Portsmouth lasting longer in the competition than Chelsea, discuss) from distance was equalised by Diego Forlan after the break. The madness came late when Uruguay striker Suarez punched away a goal-bound effort and was sent off but Asamoah Gyan skied the penalty.
Sadly for Ghana their takers in the shootout were just as bad and Uruguay go through on penalties.
Saturday 3 July
Argentina 0:4 Germany
Ha, ha, this match proves that you need a competent tactician at the World Cup, Joachim Löw clearly is, Diego Maradona is, ahem, a different kind of manager. Before you get as far as the bookmakers go back and count how many tackles Argentina attempted. The German side were good but Argentinean side were appalling.
Spain 1:0 Paraguay
All those who wrote article in the national press proclaiming this to be a tournament dominated by the South Americans should return their cheques. Only Uruguay made it through and they needed a helping hand from their star striker. Here Paraguay deserved at least a shot at extra-time but a late David Villa goal gave them no time to recover.
Sunday 4 July
No football for three days and nothing but speculation in the papers.