England went into the World Cup with low expectations, the British media pained to stress this at every opportunity. However, what went under the radar a little more was the fact that Roy Hodgson took to the tournament our best squad in a decade.
Ghosts of failures past...
Emile Heskey, Robert Green, David James, Stewart Downing, Mathew Upson, James Milner... only one of this band of average brothers actually made it into this England squad - if you're being respectful to granddad Gerrard. Instead of the usual lacklustre line-ups we English usually ship off to tournaments afar, we were able to boast one of the most prolific forwards in European football, a host of pacy young wingers and midfielders who can actually pass to one-another.
They scored two goals. Two goals in three games. At a World Cup that will be forever remembered for - at the time of writing - averaging over three goals a game. Let that sink in.
Mike Basset: England Manager
Hodgson lined up with a 4-2-3-1 against Italy, we opened the game with some exciting attacking intent, Sterling played in his prime position behind Sturridge giving Pirlo the run around, Welbeck... well, Welbecked about and tackled a bit and Rooney offered absolutely nothing.
Italy cunningly noticed we were playing with our 'only world class player' out of position on the left. They exploited it, with Darmian and Candreva ganging up on Baines to create both goals (if you count forcing the corner that Marchisio scored from). This wasn't Rooney's fault.
Do Poland play Lewandowski on the left? Do Argentina play Messi at full back to accommodate Higuain and Aguero? Do Spain play Torres on the left (only joking)? A good bet when managing your team is to play your best players in their actual position.
So really it was a straight choice between Sturridge or Rooney with either Lallana, who has been excellent for Saints all year, or Milner more naturally suited to the demands of the wing. Bad Roy!
Roy Hodgson: Adaptable...
Ok, we lost against Italy. We showed some positives, it was time to focus on Uruguay. "Let's surprise them with a tactical masterstroke, straight from the Terry Connor managerial handbook - 4-4-2 with Rooney in the hole."
Well done Roy, what wonderful judgement the FA's millions have bought them.
Uruguay man-marked Rooney and the woeful Gerrard and they made two passes between them. That is correct, they made two passes to each other in 90 minutes. The English goal came from a tackle, with Glen Johnson losing the ball again - for which he currently holds the record for most losses of possession in the tournament. It was just woeful to watch.
The blame game
After calamities of this sort, someone usually takes responsibility. Roy is happily staying on. Gerrard hasn't slipped away either. It seems that all the focus is on how all the young English players that weren't at the tournament are somehow to blame for not being good enough, instead of the players that were actually there. The definition of logic.
I believe Roy should admit that if Costa Rica could alter their tactics to counter and beat both Italy and Uruguay, to face Greece, one of the weakest team in the tournament, Hodgson should accept that over the last two years, there really haven't been any highlights, nor any reason he should continue.
To replace him, I give England its saviour, don't laugh; Steve Bruce. He's English, he's used a variety of formations and tactics with Birmingham, Sunderland and Hull. He's reached cup finals with bog average players, he somehow got Tom Huddlestone to score, he does what's needed to be done for relative success with average players.