Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Ill prepared England set up to fail

England 0-1 Germany

The World Cup is only three matches away and England are still far from sure of their strongest XI. What is needed in this situation is friendlies with teams who will allow the players on trial to showcase - not stifle - their talents.

However, in Chile and Germany, the FA picked too tough practice opponents. So tough, in fact, that England failed to register a shot on target in the second match against Germany. Even more depressingly, this was essentially Germany's reserve team, as Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer, captain Philip Lahm and vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedeira were all missing. Germany's final bullet in the chamber, Thomas Muller, was an unused sub.

Against Chile, England faced a lose-lose situation. The danger of their South American opponents was drastically underestimated: Chile are a well-drilled unit, assured of their best team and with a clear focus to the way they play. It was a situation where had England won, they wouldn't have received the credit they deserved, while a loss would see the team slated and put on a downer for the tougher task of Germany.

This invaluable two-game opportunity for the players to gel was wasted. Playing for your country should be the pinnacle in any sport, but the international scene can be daunting. Only Adam Lallana emerged from the match against Chile with credit; his Southampton teammate Jay Rodriguez looked at sea, while Fraser Forster never looked comfortable and was shown-up for the second goal by a world-class forward in Alexis Sanchez.

Before these two games, England were on a ten-game unbeaten streak. They hadn't lost in 2013. In February, Jack Wilshere delivered an electrifying performance that helped England defeat juggernauts Brazil.

Now they end the calendar year after being defeated twice at home, and failing to score in either game. It has seriously darkened the mood ahead of next summer's World Cup. The FA could have guarded against this simply by scheduling matches against more forgiving opponents.

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