Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: England could have final say

England's World Cup has been a shambles. From the word go. Coach and players have been to blame.

It can go one of two ways now. Continue on the road to self destruction which will end tomorrow with them all having to pack up and fly home in disgrace.

Or they will pull themselves together, beat Slovenia and get some momentum going which could see them go all the way to the final.

I know the latter sounds ridiculous, but it is possible.

Why? Because fortune is favouring England.

Even accounting for the at times average standard of this tournament, though thankfully it is improving, had Fabio Capello’s side been drawn in any other group they would have been out by now, having lost their opening two matches following pathetic performances.

Instead they managed draws against an American side lacking ambition and an Algerian outfit lacking quality, leaving the English one win away from the knockout stages.

In both matches, especially the second, England were there for the taking.

Slovenia are a decent side but no more than that. Northern Ireland beat them at Windsor Park in the qualifying campaign and should have done the same away from home.

If Capello’s men show anything like the passion on display in Belfast, from those wearing green shirts that night when Warren Feeney headed home a stunning winner, they will coast to victory in Port Elizabeth tomorrow.

Once into the knockout stages, if the other groups work out as expected, England would not face any of the potential winners of the competition, Argentina, Brazil or Spain, until the semi-finals.

And from there anything can happen.

See what I mean about being lucky.

And they say fortune favours the brave!

England have been anything but in this tournament.

Apart from the first four minutes against United States, the football they have played has lacked purpose, spirit, urgency and desire.

The coach, amazing for one so experienced and successful in the past, appears to have lost his instinct for choosing the ideal team. He has handled the goalkeeping situation dreadfully. Joe Hart is the best of them, yet the only one not to have played.

How Shaun Wright Phillips gets a game and Joe Cole doesn’t is even more bewildering.

And surely now he must realise that Wayne Rooney has to play as the lone striker with Steven Gerrard as his main support.

I’d also like to see Capello drop the arrogant and self serving John Terry, but that may be one step too far given that England have lost more centre-backs in South Africa than they have had decent efforts on goal.

Terry’s attempted coup backfired when other England players refused to join him in what was revolting behaviour in every sense.

Still angry over having the England captaincy taken away from him, which has seen him become an increasingly disruptive influence in the camp, Terry thought he was playing to the crowd and public opinion when on Sunday he openly questioned Capello’s tactics and selection policy, adding that he was going to tell the Italian some home truths in a no holds barred team meeting.

That never happened with Capello informing the Chelsea skipper he had made “a big mistake” questioning his authority.

Good to see him putting Terry right about that, but now Capello must rectify his own big mistakes.

And in turn the England players must start to show some form.

They need to keep their egos in their five star hotel rooms and simply go out and perform.

Right now they are zeroes, but within a few weeks could be heroes.

That’s football for you.

As Jimmy Greaves famously said it really is a funny old game.

And he should know. In 1966 when England won the World Cup (what do you mean it’s news to you?) Greaves entered the competition as the main man and ended it as an afterthought thanks to a certain Geoff Hurst.

England were a proper team back then. They need to be one now more than ever.

Belfast Telegraph

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