England leave World Cup in shame – Change has to happen now

Some have been calling it the worst ever performance by an England team at a World Cup. Some others might not go that far, but the word ‘disaster’ seems apt.

The post-mortem has already begun into the string of dire performances that led to England’s departure, with several pundits and ex-players crying out for a ‘blank slate’ to be drawn in English cricket, if there is to be any chance of success in the future; following England’s third group-stage departure in the last five World Cups.

The entertaining-yet-humbling 15-run defeat against Bangladesh will tell you all you need to know. Bangladesh went into that game with a sense that they wanted to win more than England, and that translated with their deserved victory.

Peter Moores and Paul Downton have been on the end of stinging criticism regarding their positions within English cricket, as well as fending off a campaign spear-headed by serial critic Piers Morgan calling for the return of ousted batsman Kevin Pietersen, after he was controversially sacked from the national side last year.

Captain Eoin Morgan has said he has “no regrets” about England’s poor run in the competition, and he remains defiant about the success of the coaching staff, shifting the blame onto his players: “The personnel we have are the right personnel. We haven’t clicked. We haven’t had guys in form.”

As for Morgan’s future as captain, he admitted that the decision is out of his hands, having taken over from Alastair Cook in December, with limited success on the field.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has not held back in his views surrounding the team either, calling England a “punch bag”, and fellow pundit Jonathan Agnew calls for the need to build the team for the 2019 World Cup around promising players such as Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and James Taylor.

So, what is the answer then? You could argue that further personnel changes within the ECB and the national team setup would bring a long-term benefit, but having an inner stability may also have its merits.

Would Kevin Pietersen’s presence galvanise the team? He is still arguably England’s best player, but the ‘baggage’ that would go with another reinstatement into the team could be too much to handle, and at 34, his time left in the national setup is limited.

Whatever does happen in the near future, it’s likely to ruffle a few feathers in the ECB…

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Euro 2012: How will England do?

The European Championships in Poland and Ukraine starting in the next week have already stirred up the headlines with racism fears in Ukraine in particular, highlighted in BBC’s Panorama programme with shocking scenes emerging from the country. But this post isn’t about all of that, you’ll be glad to hear! This is all about the football, as it should be and hopefully will be in the tournament.

First, the teams:

Group A:

  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Greece
  • Russia

My tip to go through: Russia through quality, Poland with home advantage

Group B:

  • Germany
  • Portugal
  • Netherlands
  • Denmark

My tip: Definitely the “Group of Death”, but my money’s on Germany and the Netherlands, just.

Group C:

  • Spain
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Italy

My tip: Spain to ease through, Croatia to spring a surprise on 2006 World Champions Italy

Group D:

  • France
  • Sweden
  • England
  • Ukraine

My tip: A tricky group for England, but I’d have them to go through as runners-up to France.

To avoid a potential quarter-final with all-conquering Spain, England would need to win Group D. And to do so, the first game against France on June 11th is key. If they can pull off the victory, their confidence will be improved in their own ability as a squad, especially as new Manager Roy Hodgson has taken over the national side at a time when expectations are much lower, after the passing of the so-called “Golden Generation” that critics say that had its last chance in South Africa two years ago. Also, winning the group would see a much less menacing prospect of playing anyone out of Croatia, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland or Italy. This being said though, England did pull off an impressive 1-0 win in a friendly back in November against the reigning World and European Champions at Wembley, so the result being repeated may not be too far out of reach.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers:

  • 1: Joe Hart- Fast becoming one of the world’s finest after a sterling season with Man City, England’s rightful #1
  • 13: Robert Green- Everyone may now associate him with that error in South Africa, but has recovered well after a season in the Championship with promoted West Ham
  • 23: Jack Butland- The 19-Year-Old has spent his season on loan at League Two Cheltenham. Called up as a replacement for the injured John Ruddy

Defenders:

  • 2: Glen Johnson- A so-so season with Liverpool, some question whether Micah Richards was a better choice
  • 3: Ashley Cole– He may be a love cheat and has an interest in shooting interns with air rifles, but a damn good left back and regarded as one of England’s only truly World-Class players
  • 5: Gary Cahill– Has impressed since joining Chelsea in January, is likely to start alongside club team mate……
  • 6: John Terry– The debate goes on as to whether exiled Rio Ferdinand should’ve been taken intstead, but has remained an England ever-present
  • 12: Leighton Baines– A solid season with Everton, however is more likely to be cover for Cole
  • 14: Phil Jones– A versatile young player with lots of potential, has a good chance of featuring in some capacity
  • 15: Joleon Lescott– Has played in a variety of positions for Man City this season, useful as cover
  • 18: Phil Jagielka– Originally on the standby list but has been called up to replace the injured Gareth Barry

Midfielders:

  • 4: Steven Gerrard (C)- Inspirational Captain for club Liverpool and can do the same for country, is having to adapt with age but remains a potent attacking force
  • 7: Theo Walcott- Has provided good services to Robin Van Persie for Arsenal this season, but has lacked composure in front of goal, will be jostling for position with club team-mate Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • 8: Jordan Henderson- Called up as cover for the injured Frank Lampard, hasn’t had a good start to life at the Anfield Club after his £20million move from Sunderland
  • 11: Ashley Young- Has consistently impressed for Man United this year (when he hasn’t been diving!), has also contributed with important goals this season as well
  • 16: James Milner- An established member of Mancini’s Man City side this season, isn’t afraid to defend as well as attack
  • 17: Scott Parker-England have been left sweating over his fitness, but will be likely to be the midfield anchor if he is able to perform, another fantastic season so far
  • 19: Stewart Downing– Yet to score a goal at Liverpool after moving there, but he has had the most shots without scoring a goal this season (74), so it’s not through lack of trying! Will need to prove himself
  • 20: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain– Potential by the bagful, he has speed and awareness beyond his years, definitely one to watch

Forwards:

  • 9: Andy Carroll- Form has improved dramatically in the latter part of the season, his inclusion has been deserved on that basis
  • 10: Wayne Rooney- Suspended for the first two group games, competition will be fierce for starting spots while he isn’t there
  • 21: Jermain Defoe– Not a regular in Harry Redknapp’s Spurs side, but has still managed to score 17 goals this season, also has big tournament experience which could prove vital
  • 22: Danny Welbeck– Good early season form perhap fizzled out slightly as the season wore on, but is a natural goalscorer

Well documented absences include veteran Rio Ferdinand, Micah Richards, Daniel Sturridge and even Peter Crouch. But in honesty, everyone’s England squad is different, as is everyone’s England starting XI. But most people’s squads probably won’t have varied too much from the 23 that were selected out of who was fit.

Newly appointed coach Gary Neville has already said that expectations for the Championships are “realistic” inside the England camp. And rightfully so to be honest, while the squad is very good, they still don’t have much experience as a team together and that may tell against the likes of Spain because their team has stayed pretty consistent over the course of a few years.

So finally, my prediction for England will be to get to the quarter finals, but if they win the group, that may be an attractive prospect for a possible semi-final against Germany, Netherlands or Portugal, so in all: Quarter Finals is most likely, but 3rd place is also achievable.