November 22, 2007

Horse 830 - Three Lions With Tails Between Their Legs

England 2 - Croatia 3

Euro 2008 - FAIL

It could be said that if England did have a national hymn, it would surely have to be the words of William Blake with music by Hubert Parry - Jerusalem. Performed every year as part of the Last Night of the Proms, it sung by thousands both in the Royal Albert Hall and simultaneously in the Proms in the Park venues throughout the country.

Perhaps almost ironically, Israel was the venue for England's saving grace in the qualifiers for the Euro 2008 tournament with Israel 2-1 winners over Russia. The fate of England then rested in their own hands; this was the scariest thought it all.

So into the last match of the qualifiers, the mighty England who were given a shot at qualification on a plate and at Fort Wembley, before 90,000 home fans; against a team that was beaten by the incredible Macedonia and had already qualified. Trust the English to provide one of the worst pitches ever seen and lose two goals in 15 minutes, whilst the mastermind McClaren stood there under his umbrella and Venables lazed about in the royal box.

To go 2-nil down should have been an embarassment and then to have to claw back two to draw level should have steeled England's resolve... but it didn't. At no point did Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard get hold of the game, at no point did Crouch look a threat (even when he scored in the 65th) and at no point did England's defence look capable of resisting Croatia for the remainder of the game.

Defoe was pulled down inside the box by Josip Simunic (the man who was given three yellow cards against Australia in Germany) and Lampard slotted the in penalty just before the hour. Dinosaur Beckham looked hopelessly outclassed but one chip delivered by him was chested down by Crouch who slammed in an equaliser.

2-2 would have been enough, but England swanned about like a bunch of prima donnae, and Croatia who'd actually bothered to turn up and play football, sent in a shot that was heard around the world in the 77th minute from the boot of Mladen Petric. For 13 minutes I sat as the clock slowly ticked off as England now face 2 years in the wilderness.

Steve McClaren's managerial career includes but a single trophy, being the 2004 League Cup for Middlesbrough. In 2005-06 he managed to squander an FA Cup Semi-Match match and spectacularly failed in the UEFA Cup final with a 4-0 loss to Sevilla. After being dropped by Middlesbrough the FA in all their wisdom picked him up as England manager and under his tenure they went through a period where they only scored one goal in six months. Now he can add the title of the manager who cost England a place in Euro 2008.

I hope this does for English football what the World Cup of 1950 did for Brazil. England has finally proven to everyone that they are not a good team and can't even mix it with mediocre international teams. I seriously hope that the FA feels very very small tonight. Also, if the "jewel in the crown" Wembley can't provide a decent pitch like every other stadium in the country, it just further shows up some serious, serious problems.

England's next meaningful match will be some time in 2009.

If there was a Sport invented called "invent a Sport and then be the quickest to be the worst at that sport" - England would win hands down... Does this mean I've invented this sport?

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