Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Euro 2012: Could Paul Scholes have been the difference for England?

England's Steven Gerrard (left), Joleon Lescott (second left), Jordan Henderson (second right) and Andy Carroll appear dejected after losing on penalties during the UEFA Euro 2012 quarter final match at the Olympic Stadium, Kyiv

Michael Owen suggested technical shortcomings and the absence of Paul Scholes were the keys to England's exit from Euro 2012 after their penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.

Although it came down to spot-kicks in the end, England could not argue as they had been second best while holding Italy in a goalless draw for 120 minutes.



Owen, a free agent after leaving Manchester United this summer, took to Twitter after the game to lament the absence of his former Old Trafford team-mate Scholes.



He wrote: "Pirlo was awesome but we have a player of a similar age and equally as good. Unfortunately he wasn't there. £Scholes.



"Easy for people to say 'until we keep possession better we will never win anything'. We are not as good as others at doing that.



"We played to our strengths but are just not quite good enough. We were hoping to 'do a Chelsea'. If you are not the best team then you have to find an alternative way to win. The other option is to forget results for a while and start from scratch playing a different style.



"Doubt we have the type of players to do that though. Answer has to be to start coaching our youngsters a different brand of football."



Another of Owen's former team-mates, Rio Ferdinand, sympathised with the England players but again pointed to Italy's midfield master Andrea Pirlo as the difference in the game, highlighting the Juventus midfielder's audacious chipped penalty in the shoot-out.



Ferdinand tweeted: "Wow, out on penalties again. Gutted for the lads man.



"On a pure footballing note Pirlo just put on a pure footballing master class + the penalty was too much".



The once-capped Joey Barton was, as usual, not short of an opinion either, saying England deserved to come in second best.



"What is it with us and penalties? Saved us from the embarrassment of a pasting off Germany in the next round" he wrote.



"Even the most biased Englishmen has to admit that Italy were much the better team over 120mins... £sadbuttrue".



Former England manager Graham Taylor believes current boss Roy Hodgson got his tactics wrong and that a shoot-out victory would not have been enough to paper over the cracks in the performance.



"If we'd won, we'd all be excited and we'd all be saying things but in the back of our minds would be the 120 minutes where we were the second best team," Taylor told Five Live.



"You know as well as I do that tournament football is all about winning, and if we'd won the shoot-out I would be as excited as the next man.



"But in Andrea Pirlo you've mentioned a player there who had the freedom of the pitch. This is difficult, but it's one of the things I learned from my time and that is that we were never going to win anything playing 4-4-2.



"You can't allow yourself to be outnumbered in the middle of the pitch because they play through the team and yesterday Pirlo had the freedom of the pitch, so I think from a tactical point of view that was a mistake."



Like Owen, Taylor suggested a change of culture is needed in English football.



"It's about style of play," he said.



"They are very comfortable on the ball and apparently going nowhere for a lot of time. That is something we are getting more and more aware of, possession is nine-tenths of the law in that regard.



"Italy basically kept the ball from us and dominated possession and had more shots. England looked tired as the competition went on and we've seen that before in many respects. But the difference between our club football and our international football is there to be seen."



Taylor also wondered if some of England's older players - not least captain Steven Gerrard - might now be reaching the end of their England careers.



"Steven Gerrard gave everything to the cause in this tournament, but time catches up with everyone, no matter how good you are, and it will be very interesting to see what happens in the next two years," he said.



Former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp, who many had expected to be in charge of England at this tournament, told the Sun England deserved to be knocked out.



"It would have been an injustice if we'd won," he said.



"They had twice as many touches as us."



However, he laid no blame at the door of the man who beat him to the England job.



"Roy Hodgson did the best he could with that squad," he added in The Sun.



"The players couldn't have given any more. I'm naturally sad that we didn't go through and I was shocked by how good Italy were."



And Redknapp also believes tactical lessons need to be learned.



"What this could do is provide a lesson for everyone about how to be a force at international level," he said, pointing to Italy's possession advantage.



"With Andrea Pirlo in there it was extremely tough for our boys to make an impact."



Redknapp now expects Hodgson to make changes to the make-up of the England squad as he turns his attention to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.



"From the starting XI, (Danny) Welbeck was the only young player on show," he said.



"Other than that it was a pretty experienced side, which is no surprise. The match showed that the way forward points to a man like Jack Wilshere.



"His absence was keenly felt because he can be like Italy's Pirlo and can certainly dictate play the way Italy's experienced man did.



"Not having the young Arsenal playmaker available shows how much value he could be to England."



However, he hoped Gerrard and John Terry stay in the squad going forward.



"Gerrard was still our best player at Euro 2012," he said.



"John Terry was magnificent. We still need those players as now there is World Cup qualification for Brazil in 2014 to think about.



"We need to bring through a few youngsters, the likes of Wilshere I've already mentioned.



"But while we are doing so, players like Gerrard and Terry and others will be of vital importance."

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