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02 July 2006  

Our World Cup Runneth...Out

3:35 PM

So, England were beaten in the quarter-finals again. We should be used to it by now, really. After all, that's where we've finished three championships in a row, two on a penalty shoot-out as I recall.

Maybe it would have been harder to take if I wasn't from the North-East, where supporting England is almost an afterthought behind supporting a either the black and white stripes or … *shudder* the other ones.

Maybe it would have been harder to take if I'd thought, like Sven seemed to, that we were actually one of the best teams in the competition. Sure, we've got Lampard, Gerrard, um... Peter Crouch (who's actually a decent player, even if he doesn't look like he should be), and some 17 year old who wasn't deemed good enough to play in any game, at any stage, and yet prevented us from taking another striker.

Against Portugal it has to be said that we did at least try and work the ball through midfield most of the time, rather than just lumping the ball upfield, losing possession, desperately trying to get it back and then lumping the ball upfield again to lose possession once more like we did against Sweden. Unfortunately, the 4-5-1 formation (becoming a 4-4-1 formation) doesn't really give you many people breaking into the penalty area, so it was always going to be difficult to score goals.

And that my dears, has been our problem in the tournament. Paraguay were defeated by an free-kick own goal and a good defence, Trinidad & Tobago held out against us for eighty-two minutes; Sweden conceded two excellent strikes from Cole and Gerrard, and Ecuador were beaten by another free kick. Against whom exactly, did we look like we were going to score more often? Against no-one, that's who.

I don't object to the 4-5-1 formation per se, but I think if you're going to be using it then either your wingers or your midfielders need to be told that whenever a cross is coming in, they are expected to be on the 6-yard line. Otherwise, what happens is a cross comes in, and there's either one person being well marshalled or nobody at all in the penalty area, which makes it a lot more difficult to score.

So, play 4-5-1 by all means, but only if you do it properly. Which means proper support from midfield, and fast, free-flowing moves, with quick breaks on the counter attack. Or if you're not going to do that, then as Mike Bassett said, you should go for:

four four bloody two

Oh, and I'll go on record now as saying I don't rate McLaren for the England job. I thought McLaren? Que¿ Of course, maybe I'm just biased against him 'cos he's the ex-Boro boss, and I do wish him all the best with England, but I can't help but feel there were better candidates available. Although, on the bright side, he's not Allardyce. Who I used to think would have been a good choice until I saw the Bolton formation at SJP last season. Never mind 4-5-1, this was more 4-6-0. A formation designed to stifle and kill the football I've just paid good money to see. Bah.

Oh well, there's always next time.

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