What Exactly Is Wrong With The England Football Team?

Why is it that the England football team often struggles against quality opposition?

I honestly don't think it's the players. At Euro 2012, all of Roy Hodgson's regulars were world class, or of an international standard. Before I tell you what's wrong with the England team, here are my player ratings for the 0-0 draw against Italy, after which England went out of the tournament on a penalty shootout;

Hart 6. Generally protected well by the defence. A few good-ish saves.
Johnson 6. Defended well, with some good forward runs, but surrendered possession too often.
Cole 6. Defended well, didn't make much impression down the wing.
Terry 8. Again marshalled the defence with aplomb. Two crucial interceptions.
Lescott 7. Continued to impress, probably did as well as Rio Ferdinand would have done.
Gerrard 7. Good ball distribution first half, but looked tired after that, and occasionally gave away possession.
Parker 6. Continues to surprise, whilst deputising for Frank Lampard.
Young 5. A bit quiet again. Sometimes surrendered possession unnecessarily, and missed the crucial penalty.
Welbeck 5. Occasional good defensive support, but failed to get into the game.
Rooney 6. Fit, but not match-fit. Good level of effort, but often struggled.
Milner 6. The occasional good cross, but struggled a little.
Walcott 5 (Sub). Saw little of the ball, just one good run in almost an hour of play.
Carroll 6 (Sub). Game performance, but often looked swamped.
Henderson 4 (Sub). Barely got a touch.

Overall, a battling defensive effort fortunately earned the penalty shootout, which might have turned out differently, had Young not unluckily hit the bar, with the crucial penalty. England tried to follow instructions to push forward, when in possession, but after the first 25 minutes, were unable to do so, because of lack of possession in midfield.

And that's what's wrong with the England football team. A good, but not great Italian side dominated midfield possession, and gave England little time on the ball. When Italy had the ball, they sprayed it around well, and always had time, and numerous passing options. In contrast, England were always rushed, with few passing options, and gave the ball away, because Italy closed them down so well. 

And if you can't get the ball in midfield, you can't drive forward, and the ball will always come back towards your penalty box. BBC pundits Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen said it best, England always seemed a man short. And that's exactly the problem in midfield. It was also the problem in the 2010 World Cup, although issues in the camp didn't help.

It's OK to play a rigid 4-4-2 formation against the lesser teams, because you'll see enough of the ball, for enough of your quality to come through. But against the better teams, you need an extra man in midfield, or you won't get enough possession, and will be dominated. So why play two strikers against the better teams, when you can play just one, and use a 4-5-1 formation, giving you the extra man in midfield you need? This is what I fear Roy Hodgson should have done against Italy, and should do against the better teams, in the future.

Nevertheless, I thought that in general, England put on a good show in Euro 2012, and were unlucky in the penalty shootout.

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