There are more questions than answers...
Now's not the time to say 'I told you so'. What's done is done and now we must reflect on the consequences. We now know that England will not
next year be playing at the European Championship Finals for the first time since 1984.
It will also be the first time England have failed for any major tournament since 1994, so what do we get from last night's 3-2 against Croatia? As far as I'm concerned, it raised more questions than answers.
First, an answer: the way Croatia played last night (i.e. in a comfortable, self-assured and competent fashion), it's fair to say that England do not deserve to be at the Finals because the quality of their play isn't up to that standard.
Question: Was Steve McClaren right to pick Scott Carson? Yes and no, in my opinion. No because last night's critical decider was not the place to give a 22-year-old with no international experience his debut. And yet given the alternatives (see previous article), perhaps some new blood with no previous reputation for untrustworthyness was worth a shot.
As much as I support Scott Carson in his development as a top goalkeeper, there's no avoiding the fact that the first goal was his fault as his technique was all wrong. That said, he made up for it with a performance that saw his early nerves dissipate and his shot-stopping abilities come to the fore once again.
Are the team playing as a team? No. There are undoubtedly some strong individual talents among England's ranks, but a unified strength seems to be lacking at the moment. Something for either McClaren or his successor to work on, perhaps.
Should David Beckham have played from the start? I doubt it would have done any harm. Though he's certainly not match-fit these days, he still retains a great sense of ball delivery in open play and in dead-ball situations. Maybe that would have been more of a factor if he'd had more of the game to play in.
Should Steve McClaren stay on in charge of the England team? For me, no. As one or two other people have mentioned on this blog, McClaren doesn't seem to be able to inspire his players. They play as if lacking any direction, and that could be something to do with a tactical naivety that brought Middlesbrough precious little in the way of glory while he was coach there.
If McClaren goes, who should replace him? Despite being from Northern Ireland, I'd personally like to see Martin O'Neill given a chance. I think the Terry Venables time has been and gone. Jose Mourinho? Sure, why not… although I doubt the job would interest him enough to take it. Alan Shearer? I think it might be worth giving him a go. Yes I know he has no international experience in coaching, but he definitely knows a thing or two and he undoubtedly has the iron will and mental strength to ram home the players' responsibilities when needed.
There are doubtless more questions and answers to come from England's failure to qualify, so feel free to post any of your own here. For the meantime, we'll try and get used to the idea of a Euro 2008 tournament that won't feature England. Strange. All very strange.
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