England | Another poor showing begs the question: What troubles the Three Lions?

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© Getty Images

England | Another poor showing begs the question: What troubles the Three Lions?

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Sharad Akavoor


The symptoms are the same. The ailment has been diagnosed as well. But as usual, treatment is still awaited. Maybe it is only subdued until the next relapse, when, again, it's the same all over again.

As far as medical conditions are concerned, the England National Team’s ‘Big Tournament Syndrome’ seems like a dead end. Every two years, be it the World Cup or the European Championship, England’s undoing as an international side is very well demonstrated. The pre-tournament excitement, the patriotic chants, and the slight hope among the supporters that maybe their time is now, is soon dissipated once anything slightly challenging pops up. And it isn’t surprising that it happens every time. Nothing changes.

For the manager’s part, his failure is magnified with this exit more than ever. It is plain and simple Roy Hodgson has never been able to get the best out of any of the Engand sides he has managed. Starting with Euro 2012, Hodgson’s England never seemed a real threat to Europe’s big guns. Always the outsiders, the dark horses who might surprise the favourites.

Euro 2012 was his first venture, probably his best performance as manager, though far from good. They topped a group consisting of France, Sweden, and co-hosts Ukraine only to be knocked out by Italy on penalties. The 2014 World Cup turned out to be a new low for Hodgson and England. Knocked out in the group stage without even a single win, and at the bottom of their group. Some might say it couldn’t be worse. But Monday night was. And the problems with Hodgson’s England weren’t ever so conspicuous.

But the failure isn’t just symptomatic of the man in charge. It is also that of those on the field. It’s no surprise England have often been put up on a pedestal, considered a side much greater than they are on the field. Apart from Daniel Sturridge’s late heroics against Wales, no English forward has stepped up in this tournament. Vardy managed to score against Wales but the biggest disappointment was Premier League golden boot winner Harry Kane, who couldn’t score a single goal and whose biggest role in the team, weirdly, was to take corners. Rooney’s performances, again, exemplified his relationship with the big stage, a player who in that sense epitomises all that is wrong with the England team.

England, also, had no strong plan. Spain had their flair, Germany their no-nonsense explosive approach, Italy their discipline, and France their passion and aggression. England had individuals who couldn’t muster up a collective identity. This has been seen before in the best of the English sides, be it 2002 or 2006. They simply can’t get themselves to win together. The problem of inflated egos has been dealt with. Players from rival clubs play well together as well. But no outcome that justifies their ego or price tag.

What seems to be the problem was very well presented by their opponents on Monday night. England fans went into celebration once they learned of their last 16 opponents. But Iceland’s passion, resilience, and discipline served up a tiring England not only their biggest humiliation, but also a lesson. Calling England’s poor show a humiliation would be unfair on Iceland, who were simply brilliant on the night. It’s only England who humiliated themselves with their worst performance in recent history.

Hope springs eternal. Something England fans would dread hearing right now, but would love to believe. Now that the Euros are done, the players go back to their respective clubs and fans have something to believe in. Two years of more club football till the World Cup in Russia. Until then the fans can expect fewer heartbreaks. That is if England don’t crash out of qualifications.

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