Jon Dunham – England’s weaknesses came to the fore

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
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And so, the end is near...

Fear not, I am not about to burst out into song. The opening sentence merely describes the state of England’s World Cup campaign.

A campaign that is now in tatters after Uruguay or, more specifically, Luis Suarez destroyed any hopes that we may have had last night.

The inquest, as you would expect, has started and as usual there are differing views of where it all went wrong and what could and now should be done to try to put things right.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised to see our national team where they are.

Indeed, many predicted it would be this way before the hype overtook everyone.

I had my own hopes and I genuinely believed we would have enough to get through the group, clearly that isn’t going to be the case now.

So why? Why have things got so bad when it comes to the national side.

The power of the Premier League and the pandering that the Football Association does to them has not helped matters over the past few years. There’s no doubt about it.

People will delve into the foreign player argument, there is probably just cause. But surely the fact that a lot of foreign players feature in our top flight isn’t the reason why English footballers continually lack the ability to go and perform at major tournaments?

Ultimately, this World Cup has come at a time when England have a particularly weak squad.

Take the Uruguay game and, particularly their first goal. Four individual errors (Steven Gerrard giving the ball away, Glen Johnson allowing Cavani to cross, Phil Jagielka letting Suarez run beyond him and Leighton Baines statuesque when he might have covered from the left) allowed the Liverpool striker to finish in deadly fashion.

Take nothing away from Suarez, he is world class. But if you allow him the two real chances he was given, the outcome will always be the same.

Defensively, the issues are massive for England. Gary Cahill is really the only one of the back four who played last night who could claim to be good enough to be anywhere near an international side.

It’s not a case of trying to dig anyone in particular out, it’s just a fact that has been proven.

Gerrard picked a bad time to have a stinker (what can you do) and further forward it was a real case of huff and puff with the only move of real quality bringing us a goal.

Roy Hodgson shouldn’t be immune from criticism. I think he made mistakes.

Danny Welbeck didn’t exactly shine all season for Manchester United yet Hodgson sees something that many others don’t.

The likes of Ross Barkley and, in particular, Adam Lallana enjoyed outstanding campaigns and, despite their age and lack of experience, should have been given more time in Brazil to show what they can do.

Last night, their introductions gave England a welcome injection of pace and power and both players also have that bit of devil inside them, they appear to have the passion that others seem to lack.

We could also argue that Uruguay should have been down to 10 men in the first half (how were they not?) but that is merely a weak excuse.

The truth is that, disappointingly, England’s footballers aren’t good enough to compete on a world stage at the present moment.

There will be those who suggest that it must start from the bottom, the way youngsters are coached and the way they are brought through.

But, as one of my colleagues has already pointed out this morning, we currently find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

Do we play the English way? Or does everyone listen to those who say ‘no, you can’t play that way on an international stage’.

The sad truth is that either approach wouldn’t have made a difference with the squad that was available. And Hodgson, certainly from a defensive point of view, had no choice on that front. He wasn’t the one who made the individual mistakes when it mattered the most.

It’s another bitter pill to swallow but it’s one we all probably expected.

Where do we go from here? I’m not sure.

There are talented youngsters coming through and maybe it is the time to show some faith in them and see what happens.

Mistakes will be made but at least they have the time to learn from them. Let’s face it, things can’t exactly get any worse can they?