First, of course I commend the lads and the managerial staff for getting as far as they did. It was truly brilliant, thrilling and heart-warming. We’re set up for a few tournaments to come with goodwill, excitement and expectation. Life has been breathed back into international football and that is no mean feat. So Well Done everyone.
However, if we want to get this far, or further, in the future lessons need to be learned. That is also the harsh reality of competing at the highest level.
Much of this will have been said already or re-hashed out there, so I’ll make it mercifully brief.
Where this game was lost:
- Not taking our clear-cut chances in the First Half. Not creating other clear-cut chances when we had the chance. Not hitting the target with half-chances. None of the Front 4 were at their highest level, and that’s where they needed to be to beat this lot (and even more so if we were going to have a chance against France). Dele looked at 70% or so. Harry looked tired too, trying to do too much. Lingard and Sterling needed to be clinical with the good work they did. Henderson’s distribution was way off. He can spread the ball wide, but as soon as he was looking for a longer-straighter ball he was off by several yards. He’d had a good tournament but he was off yesterday and his deficiencies exposed.
- Not reading the change in the game in the Second Half. It was clear something was up within 5 mins of it starting. Dropping back to counter their Wing-Backs’ ascendancy was not the answer. We needed to cut them off at source: Modric. Rakatic wasn’t having a great game, so if we’d stopped Luka, we would have been ok. It’s not like it was a surprise he started to run the game. He’s a genuine star and had proved it previously. This one is on Southgate. I know it’s not easy, but you have to be flexible to what is happening. Have Plans B & C. Putting Delph on, Modric, and changing the shape if necessary, would have done the job. He’s at the top of his game in terms of fitness levels (recently changed diet) and for 40 mins, he could have contained him.
- New defence finally blew up. Walker was mostly fantastic last night but got found out, as did Stones and Maguire. No shame in that, but that’s what happened. Mandzucic was not adequately contained, just at the critical moment and BOOM! Game over.
We were in the lead in a World Cup Semi Final and we blew it.
As I said, this doesn’t take anything away from what has been a fantastic campaign but we won’t get here again if we make these kinds of errors in big games.