England’s Dilemma and a surprise Russian exit


A well known football pundit said you can’t win a football tournament in the first game but you can certainly lose it.

How true that rings true for Russia. Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to them was the emphatic way they dismantled an average Czech team. The 4-1 win lit up the tournament and had football purists purring with delight. Russia’s quick, slick passing game was no match for the Czechs who must have thought they got off lightly as it could have been far worse. Many experts were calling Russia the dark horse of the tournament after this exciting, diminutive display. Russia were expected to sail through the group but instead complacency reared it’s ugly head and the Russians were one of the first few to confirm their seats on the plane home. There seems little doubt that the players were guilty of believing the hype that surrounded their opening match performance.

The pivotal moment of their tournament came, not in their first game, but their second group game against Poland.  Seemingly on their way to a comfortable win against the co – hosts, it was their talisman and captain Andry Arshavin who deplorably was guilty of giving the ball away when in a prominent attacking position. What followed was a quick Polish break and Jakub Blaszczykowski sent the home crowd delirious with a fine strike which earned Poland it’s second point of the tournament. Still, Russia’s fate was in their own hands. A draw against a poor Greek side would have been enough to see them go through, however found themselves at the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline. It’s seems that Russia sealed their fate with the brilliant win over the Czech Republic, who went on to top the group. Russia’s collapse serves as a timely reminder that it’s not how you start a tournament that is important. It’s how you finish it.

England’s Dilemma-

With England’s final group game against the Ukraine coming up, only one thing is dominating the headlines. Who will be dropped for the returning Wayne Rooney. Will it be the man mountain Andy Carroll or the elusive Danny Welbeck who will be the victim of England’s problem?

See, the question should not be who will be dropped in favour of the Manchester United striker. The mere asking of the question just underlines the problem that has been England’s Achilles heel since I can remember. For years now I have seen players reputation go before their form in getting them selected for England when the big games and tournaments come around. The question should be ‘Why should we drop anyone?’ In all fairness, none of the two players mentioned above should be dropped. They both played their part and got on the score sheet. So what good will it do to their confidence and mentality to drop either one of them for Rooney? I accept that England have not lit any fires with their performances at Euro 2012 as of yet. But being in a tournament is about the team growing together and finding their feet at the right time.

England’s brilliant 1990 run to the semi final is heralded as a great achievement but  who remembers or mentions the disappointing opening draw with an inexperienced Republic of Ireland? Or the stalemate against the Dutch? Or the laboured wins over Egypt or Belgium? Not many, if any.

Hodgson has the chance to draw a line under past tendencies. The England manager can use this moment to show things are changing, to send a uplifting message to not only the players in the Ukraine but the players who missed out too. Start Rooney on the bench.

After all, it is his fault. His stupid, childish kick out at Montenegro’s Miodrag Dzudovoic put England’s Euro 2012 hopes in jeopardy. Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck have stepped up and are doing a steady job. Can you imagine the confidence it will give the two if they are both in the starting line up against Ukraine? It will lift their performance and give England a new dawn. I am well aware that Rooney is one the most gifted England players we have had, perhaps the most gifted player since Gascoigne to appear for England, but Carroll and Welbeck deserve to be in that team more than any other players.

Go on, Roy. Stamp your mark. (We know he won’t)

Kam Gill

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