From Venables to Hodgson: the press box view of England’s tournament flops

England's Wayne Rooney

Euro ’96

What was said before England’s opening match, v Switzerland

David Lacey, the Guardian (8 June, 1996) “As England coach, Terry Venables goes on trial today after two-and-a-half years preparing his case. His term has been more notable for events off field than on it with no need to qualify, perhaps this was inevitable. A quick rather than deep thinker, Venables should be in his element once the tournament has begun. He is nothing if not a good organiser and improviser, an astute manipulator of players and a keen observer of opposition weaknesses.”

What happened

For the second time in six years, England lose a semi-final on penalties to Germany. Gareth Southgate’s saved attempt precipitates a 6-5 defeat after the two sides had drawn 1-1 after extra time. Wembley, and the nation, is deflated after a 1-1 draw at Wembley

What was said afterwards

Henry Winter, the Daily Telegraph (28 June, 1996) “Tactically, England have become far more sophisticated, capable of adapting their approach to defeat the Dutch, of creating chance upon chance against obdurate Germans. Gone, surely, are the days of that dinosaur, the English stopper reared on red steak. Centre-halves must now control a ball and move it on accurately.Glenn Hoddle will doubtless build on such strong foundations. England’s new coach will find himself with a group of players for whom fear has become an alien concept.”

World Cup ’98

What was said before England’s opening match, v Tunisia

Roy Collins, the Sunday People (14 June, 1998) “The rest of the world believes England have got a team which is far better equipped to compete with the more sophisticated styles of the French, Germans, Italians and Brazilians than in the recent past. Arsenal’s Tony Adams is the pivotal figure in a modern three-man defence. [David] Beckham, whether he plays in central midfield or on the right wing, will be crucial to England’s fortunes. As will the biting tackles of [David] Batty and [Paul] Ince, whether they play in tandem or individually. [Teddy] Sheringham is almost certain to renew his striking partnership with [Alan] Shearer. But waiting in the wings to steal the whole show is the irrepressible [Michael] Owen.”

What happened

Penalties. Again. England go out to Argentina in Saint-Étienne, losing 4-3 from the spot after drawing 2-2 after extra time. Michael Owen dazzles, David Beckham is dismissed.

What was said afterwards

Oliver Holt, the Times (2 July, 1998) “England’s next target is qualification for the European Championship to be held in Holland and Belgium in 2000. England will begin that campaign against Sweden in Stockholm on 5 September. They will be without [David] Beckham, though, whose indiscretion on Tuesday means that he is suspended for the first two qualifying games. By that time, men such as Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand should have matured into world-class performers, ready to complement the international swansongs of men such as [Paul] Ince and Adams.”

Euro 2000

What was said before England’s opening match, v Portugal

David Lacey, the Guardian (12 June, 2000) “The reality is that unless England show a marked improvement on the majority of their performances in the qualifiers they will be swiftly exposed by the punctilious nature of Portugal’s passing game and reduced to trusting in the wayward nature of Portuguese finishing. Rarely has an England side needed to concentrate so hard on not giving the ball, and possibly the game, away.”

What happened

England exit at the group stage after losing two of their three fixtures, the last of which is a 3-2 defeat to Romania in Charleroi .

What was said afterwards

James Lawton, the Independent (22 June, 2000) “Sooner or later, Kevin Keegan takes the fall. We can be sure about this. It is the well honed way of England‘s international football. It is by so much the easiest option. The team boss comes and goes – and the whole wretched caravan lurches on ever more deeply into the desert. Meanwhile, the hype and the selling goes along cheerfully enough back at Football Association headquarters in Lancaster Gate. And all the time English football drifts further away from the heart of the serious action. We may have given the game to the world, but the world has taken it and turned it into something with which we are no longer familiar.”

World Cup 2002

What was said before England’s opening match, v Sweden

Matt Lawton, the Daily Mail (1 June, 2002) “Sven-Goran Eriksson will conclude he has left nothing to chance. Dossiers on England‘s Group F opponents have been prepared, blood tests and bleep tests on the players have been completed, and England should be fully acclimatised. Even so, a team with an average age of 23 – if one excludes the 38-year-old David Seaman – might have to perform beyond all reasonable expectations if they are to progress to the latter stages.”

What happened

Ronaldinho’s ‘did he mean it?’ free-kick sees Brazil beat England 2-1 in the quarter-finals. Eriksson’s men had led through Michael Owen’s 23rd minute strike.

What was said afterwards

Martin Samuel, News of the World (23 June 2002) “This England team is now on stage two of its evolution and I am yet to be convinced some of Eriksson’s thinking has found its way out of the stone age. There must be a reason why what is basically Manchester United’s midfield reverts to longa bola under pressure whenever they play for England – because they certainly do not do it for their club. United are not infallible and we all saw games lost last season because the defence made errors or the central areas were overrun – but never did we see David Beckham, Paul Scholes or Nicky Butt reduced to lumping high balls into the box. In defeat, United still reflect the ideals of Sir Alex Ferguson, a man who would rather take up greyhound racing than by-pass midfield.”

Euro 2004

What was said before England’s opening match, v France

Martin Samuel, News of the World (13 June, 2004) “It is not just the nation that expects this week the players, too, would be utterly crushed by failure. As often happens the England bandwagon has gained ferocious momentum as kick-off draws near yet this championship should not prove a familiar road to nowhere. English optimism in Portugal is based on sound evidence. The team has lost just one competitive match in more than three years and performed impressively against credible opponents, including Germany, Turkey and Argentina.”

What happened

You guessed it – penalties. England lost 6-5 to the hosts, Portugal, having drawn 2-2 after extra time. Wayne Rooney’s early injury and Sol Campbell 90th minute ruled-out goal proved key moments.

What was said afterwards

Martin Lipton, the Daily Mirror (26 June, 2004) “Sven-Göran Erikssonhas done many fine things since inheriting the shambles bequeathed him by Kevin Keegan three and a half years ago. Like introducing Ashley Cole and John Terry, trusting in the brilliance of Wayne Rooney, bringing back the feel-good factor, and healing the divisions which had ripped England apart in the recent past. But where predecessor Graham Taylor was out of his depth, Glenn Hoddle too clever for his own good, and Keegan an accident waiting to happen, this time the guilt has to rest with a coach who clutched the comfort blanket of all-out defence and then was powerless to prevent the consequences of his caution.”

World Cup 2006

What was said before England’s opening match, v Paraguay

Sam Wallace, the Independent (10 June, 2006) “Sven-Goran Eriksson seems to have left so much to chance over the years - the names of opposition players, the identity of the referee - but this time he sounds more in control. And while talk of team spirit and unity within the camp can normally be dismissed as the usual nonthinking prattle of professional footballers, this time it seems genuine. Watching the England squad over the last three weeks tells you that they enjoy playing together.”

What happened

More penalty heartache against Portugal. England lose the shoot-out 3-1 having lost Wayne Rooney to a red card in the 62nd minute. Cristiano Ronaldo winked.

What was said afterwards

James Lawton, the Independent (3 July, 2006) “Will intelligence and courage ever again be applied to the shaping of our national game on the international stage? Will the lessons of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s disgraceful stewardship of England be properly learnt or, under his successor and right-hand man, Steve McClaren, will the old mythologies build again? Will we talk ourselves once more into the preposterous argument that we are in a position to beat the best of the world game? Here it is impossible to provide an encouraging answer.”

World Cup 2010

What was said before England’s opening match, v USA

Martin Samuel, the Daily Mail (12 June, 2010) “What is being examined here is more than just Fabio Capello’s preparation theories. It is the entire ethos of English football in the 21st century, the FA’s belief that the World Cup can be bought, as good as put on expenses by securing the services of a stellar foreign coach. This is it. This is our chance, not least because by the time the next World Cup comes along it can be safely presumed that Capello, and the bulk of what is already a very experienced squad, will have moved on from international football.”

What happened

A miserable campaign ends in miserable fashion as England are beaten 4-1 by Germany in the last-16 stage.

What was said afterwards

Paul Hayward, the Guardian (28 June 2010) “Fabio Capello toured the shires in search of fresh talent and found none. Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and even Theo Walcott were discarded. The manager was surely right to conclude that English football’s nursery is not producing fruit. National coaching programmes and strategic planning are not the English way. Feeding the Premier League monster is the only show in town. The FA throws money at 44 years of frustration by importing first Swedish then Italian expertise and locking themselves into expensive long contracts. Each time the mantra is we need to be honest about the true state and standing of the England football team and we never are.”

Euro 2012

What was said before England’s opening match, v France

Daniel Taylor, the Guardian (11 June, 2012) Roy Hodgson has had only 41 days as manager, the first 12 of which were spent pre-occupied by West Bromwich Albion matters. In total, there have been two friendlies and 10 training sessions. It is far from ideal, particularly when the opposition is unbeaten in 21 games and has an attacking three of Franck Ribéry, Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri. No wonder then that a great deal of Hodgson’s training has been focused on the team’s defensive structure, with Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker not straying too far forward from the centre of midfield. After that, a lot of England’s hopes rest on how Ashley Young deputises for Wayne Rooney.”

What happened

More penalty heartache. In truth, England were lucky to get that far having been thoroughly outplayed in their quarter-final tie against Italy. It somehow ended goalless, with Hodgson’s men eventually beaten 4-2 from the spot.

What was said afterwards

Matt Lawton, the Daily Mail (26 June, 2012) “The FA have not returned to the dark ages. Work is being done to challenge the culture of English football. The National Football Centre is about to open. There are new reforms for kids’ football. But Roy Hodgson is operating in the shorter term, over the four years of his contract, and one challenge he faces is getting the best out of Wayne Rooney after yet another disappointing tournament for England’s most gifted footballer. Like the rest of England’s players, something as basic as passing proved difficult for Rooney in Kiev.”

World Cup 2014

What was said before England’s opening match, v Italy

Barney Ronay, the Guardian (14 June, 2012) “With 35C temperatures and tropical humidity Manaus was always likely to spook the English and the last few weeks have been spent in fevered, slightly scattergun acclimatisation. It is to be hoped England have also given some thought to overcoming the effects of the heat by passing the ball to each other a little better.”

What happened

England bow out of the competition after two games – two defeats, to Italy and Uruguay. It is the first time they have been knocked out in the group stages since 1958.

What was said afterwards

Patrick Collins, the Mail on Sunday (22 June, 2014) “There were fears the FA chairman Greg Dyke might stoop to a populist gesture. Fortunately, Dyke has recognised the futility of abandoning Roy Hodgson at this stage and has announced his support of the manager through to 2016. His next step should involve a confrontation with the Premier League, who were created with the boldly declared and palpablyfraudulent aim of improving the national side. Already, Dyke has asked the central question: ‘If your top league is largely foreign-owned with foreign managers, why should those in control care about developing the England team?’ His subsequent attempts to address the problem have been incoherent and unconvincing.”

Powered by article was written by Sachin Nakrani, for The Guardian on Tuesday 28th June 2016 18.53 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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