Why England's World Cup run was a failure
England are out of the 2018 World Cup, and deservedly so.
Two tough games, two losses. That’s the story of England’s 2018 World Cup campaign. Forget all the ‘let’s be proud of the boys’ rubbish. Once again the Three Lions have fallen victim to their own inexperience and naivete. With an expectant nation glued to their television sets, England went on to put in a hopeless performance in a match they apparently worked so hard to reach.
Yes, this was England’s easiest route to a World Cup ever, but people failed to realise Croatia was still a better team than England. Luka Modric spoke the truth in a post-match interview. The media underestimated his side, perceiving them as a walkover. Croatia proved themselves warriors, enduring their third successive extra time outing, their third successive come-from-behind victory.
The Three Lions didn't have that sort of fight. There is no reason for pride. Here's why.
You know you’re set piece reliant when you match the World Cup record. Kieran Trippier’s strike in the fifth minute was England’s ninth set-piece strike of the tournament. It put them on par with the 1966 England champions. What does that say about English football history?
The Three Lions scored only three goals from regular play. Harry Kane lived off the dead ball. He scored three goals from the spot, another two from corners, just one in the run of play.
Some of you are nodding your heads in approval, If not raising a fist and shouting "F--- Yeah!" while dancing atop first responder vehicles or looting and pillaging your local Swedish Walmart, but this doesn’t bode well for the attacking output of the England team. Scoring most of your goals from set pieces suggests you lack creativity from open play. Before the semifinal encounter, England had created 47 chances, including all those set-piece opportunities. This doesn’t resemble the philosophy of a free-flowing, enthusiastic, young side. It's a Tony Pulis wet dream.
The 3-5-2 is one of the most counter-intuitive formations in modern football, especially the way England apply it. With the wing-backs stationed high and wide, the formation is meant to stretch the pitch, to draw opposing teams out of their shape. England wing-backs do get forward but out of possession, the Three Lions deploy five at the back.
That leaves only three midfielders to cover the width of the pitch and the two strikers in limbo. Gareth Southgate’s system was set up with the intention of making England hard to beat, to nullify opposing attacks. Big teams don’t set up with the primary intention of stopping others; they seek to impose their gameplan on the other team.
The myth of Harry Kane
As an Arsenal fan I’m already a bit indifferent about Harry Kane. After this tournament, though, I know exactly how I feel about him. I know he’s probably going to finish the Golden Boot winner, but Harry Kane’s World Cup cannot be branded a success. The 24-year-old scored a few penalties, headers from six yards, tap-ins and had a shot ricochet off his shin. Hardly the stuff of world-beaters is it?
When the Three Lions needed their captain the most he was busy missing open goals and hiding from play. In typical Spursy fashion, England’s greatest-ever striker went missing when his side of inexperienced youngsters needed him most. When he did turn up, he missed a one-v-one that would have made Emile Heskey proud.