Belfast Telegraph

Hopeless Roy is leading the Lions into wilderness

By Steven Beacom

England were drawing 1-1 against Brazil at half-time in the 2002 World Cup finals and needed inspiration to boost their sagging morale.

Just before the break, in the stifling heat of Shizuoka in Japan, Rivaldo levelled Michael Owen's early opener.

Heads dropped, spirits dipped and the players walked to the tunnel feeling low. Inside the dressing room they were met by manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The team talk was not uplifting. It didn't come close to being inspirational and it failed to offer the players belief that they could still defeat the Brazilians.

Gareth Southgate, then a TV pundit, came out with a brilliant line to sum it up.

"When we needed Winston Churchill we got Iain Duncan Smith," he said.

England lost 2-1 when David Seaman made a mess of a free-kick from Ronaldinho, who was later sent off, and the chance to progress was gone

The manager wasn't up to the job and the players failed to take responsibility.

Remind you of anyone?

The current England side have turned out to be just the same – at least the 2002 version made the knockout stages!

The lack of leadership on and off the pitch this year was telling.

Roy Hodgson – in Southgate terms he'd be Nick Clegg given that everything is collapsing around him – could argue the World Cup draw was not kind, but he hardly helped himself.

Playing Wayne Rooney on the left against Italy was a major mistake, not rectified early enough in the 2-1 defeat.

Failing to target Andrea Pirlo and at least attempt to stop his influence was another. Pirlo had the freedom of Manaus!

Against Uruguay, the manager kept the same starting XI when he should have dropped Danny Welbeck for Adam Lallana or Ross Barkley. He also didn't make his second half substitutions quickly enough.

When great managers see a system not working or a player underperforming, they are ruthless, clever and sharp enough to spot what is required and make the switch.

Jose Mourinho is a master at it, Louis van Gaal is another with that in-built insight – which is great news for Manchester United – and Brendan Rodgers has shown at Liverpool that he is learning fast in this department.

Hodgson has been way behind at the 2014 World Cup. Tactically out of his depth.

Look at how Costa Rica played and won against both Uruguay and Italy. Costa Rica boss Jorge Luis Pinto was spot on with his formation, selections and ideas.

Yesterday in the victory over Italy, Costa Rica closed down Pirlo, frustrated Mario Balotelli and made the Azzurri look ordinary. That's the way to do it.

Hodgson never will though.

Despite going out of the World Cup before Wimbledon starts, he is staying on for two more years.

England will qualify for Euro 2016. Just don't expect them to go far under Roy.

Belfast Telegraph


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