England out with a whimper

England out with a whimper





England are going home, but football is staying where it belongs.

For all the patronising talk about positives and progress, the Three Lions got what they deserved: nothing.

No platitudes, just three patchy performances and an early flight to London.

After labouring in the mid-day sunshine against the 28th-ranked Costa Ricans, Roy Hodgson's sentimental 11 plodded along in the dire 0-0 draw this morning (Singapore time) as they hobbled out of a tournament they never truly belonged to.

This World Cup has been an explosion of attacking vitality and counter-attacking, of teams punching above their weight and exceeding expectations.

England did none of the above. They will not be missed.

History loomed large in Belo Horizonte; the city where England reached rock bottom with that nightmarish 1-0 defeat by the part-time football paupers from the United States in 1950.

Belo Horizonte residents still mark the spot of the Three Lions' X-rated horror show. Brazil has now recorded England's latest confirmation of their second-class status.

If their Group D mediocrity didn't quite reach the nadir of Stanley Matthews' so-called "The Kings of Football", the tournament has again exposed England's psychological deficiencies.

They still suffer from delusions of grandeur; their opinions and expectations inflated by the puffed-up English Premier League.

As it was 64 years ago, Belo Horizonte is still bursting England's bubbles.

Jorge Pinto rested a couple of players as his industrious side managed the delicate balancing act of trying to top the group without potentially destabilising the camp through injury or suspension.

The popular Pinto is nicknamed "El Explosivo" and his line-ups have lived up to the billing.


His muscular five-man defence continued to rely on Bryan Ruiz down the right and the fast-breaking, penetrative pace of Joel Campbell, who has been hurriedly recalled to the Arsenal squad. Hodgson either experimented or bowed to sentimentality, depending on your point of view.

If he is already planning for Euro 2016, then the inclusion of Frank Lampard and James Milner was as baffling as it was ineffectual.

Ross Barkley tried, but Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere got lost in a contest that offered only half-chances and snatched opportunities for both sides.

Pivotal playmaker Celso Borges whipped a viciously dipping free-kick over the wall from 25 metres, while England's best first-half opportunity came from Barkley's corner, which was flicked on by Phil Jones, but nodded over by Daniel Sturridge.

The Liverpool striker came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 65th minute, but hooked his strike around goalkeeper Keylor Navas and wide of the post.

Substitute Wayne Rooney also saw his chipped shot tipped over.

The greatest display of improvisation and ingenuity from the men in England shirts came in the stands when fans threw a beach ball around to alleviate the boredom.

They got the biggest cheers of the afternoon inside Estadio Mineirao.

The beach ball provided fitting imagery of a nation's failings: lightweight and overblown.

And, once again, the World Cup has stuck a brutal pin through England's hopes.

This article was first published on June 25, 2014.
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