Following yet another disastrous performance in a major international tournament, England see themselves crashing out to an Iceland Swiss which has been disrespected since day one of Euro 2016.
The more the media keeps reporting the result as a shocker, the more they are insulting a clearly solid Iceland team with multiple top league quality players. Sigurdsson has been the too player in an English Premier League club for years now. Though the story about their manager being a part time dentist is certainly fascinating. It’s just that, let’s all stop making it sound as if England were far and away the favourites to win this matchup in the first place.
England haven’t won a knockout round in a major tournament for ten years now, and haven’t looked good all tournament, having barely scraped though their group games, with our performances in all three. Sturridge’s winner against Wales got everyone’s hopes up, but we should’ve all known it wouldn’t last.
Ten years of not making it past a knockout round in a major tournament is no joke. Especially for a nation that claims having the biggest, most competitive football league in the world, though that itself, as will be discussed later, may be part of the problem. So here now I offer my blueprint on how England can rebuild from here, with the goal of making it past a knockout round in the World Cup 2018.
1. Get rid of the clueless Hodgson
Oh wait, he already took care of that himself? Moving on…
2. For God’s sake play some English players
If there is any positive to come out of Brexit, it might just be that EPL teams will be forced to seriously look at developing local talent again. With perhaps more restricted movement of foreign players, English talent should see more action in the domestic leagues, after two decades of clubs signing Brazilian or African fourteen year olds going they’d turn into the next Neymar or Toure.
3. Stop calling up big name players from big name teams
Exhibit 1, Jack Wilshere. Played all of one game for Arsenal this season and gets called up over the midfield engine of the league champions. Joe Hart hasn’t been a good goalkeeper for years now, and Rooney retiring from international football might be doing the team a favor. The problem with Rooney, despite his decent performance this tournament, is that having him on the squad creates certain dilemmas for coaches and teammates. Being the face of England for so many years, coaches find it hard to drop him even when he’s not playing well.and the younger players may not view him as a leader anymore based on his more recent form.
4. Hand the reigns to the next generation
With Rooney out of the way, the promising next generation of players might just finally shine in their own right. The attack could be handed over to Sterling, Sturridge and Rashford, who might turn out to be the best talent among them. Bring in Drinkwater to add some grit to the midfield, which sorely lacks a hardworking, tough tackling, box to box kind of player, in the mold of a Steven Gerrard.
5. Make the defense good again
England defenses used to always be rock solid. From the days of Stuart Pearce and Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, to Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, they’ve always had an enforcer in the centre of the defense. Someone who was capable of shutting down the best attacking players, who would scream and shout orders to teammates to make sure everyone was in the right position defensively, and had that extra edge to make a cleverly timed hard tackle and intimate opponents. Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill? Not so much. Let’s hope Stones or Dier turn out that way. Those two goals conceded against Iceland showed clearly how fragile the current England defense is, and that includes the goalkeeper.
6. Just don’t expect to win World Cup 2018
While it’s fair to have some expectations heading into the World Cup, it just puzzles me how some people actually think England as one of favorites in every single international tournament. It’s pretty obvious by now, after the last three World Cups AND Euros, that England are somewhere in between mediocre and underdog. If that’s the expectation the media and fans have come 2018, then the reduced pressure might just free the players to play a proper game and finally for once, deliver on expectations.