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This Is England

When a goal keeper can launch a ball eighty yards downfield to an aging forward, and that forward can beat two defenders for control and slot the ball past an indecisive opposing keeper, and you are that opposing team, it is time to go home. It is time to pack up your red kit, your white kit, your Slovenian trophy jerseys, a few premium grade vuvuzelas, some Kaiser Chiefs t-shirts for the kids and get on the plane to Heathrow.

The England team won’t leave under a cloud like France or in a fit of self loathing like Italy but they cannot be expecting much in the way of a national embrace. Every player on the team looked as if they’d been sentenced to play for their country and their arrival back on home soil will have all the emotional warmth of watching a third time offender released for a halfway house into the arms of a tired and emotionally spent ex-wife.

It had to be against Germany. Out came the tired old chants about the war and now the new fuel of national outrage at a missed call that denied England their second goal. Lost in this braying of injustice is the score line and the difficult truth that England was outplayed on both ends of the field and that the better side won. Rooney never found the space to unleash his fierce speed and power. The back line of defense played as if they were on an awkward first date. David James was, at times, brilliant, flashing leg saves like a hockey goalie, and at darker moments he badly misplayed angles and the shear relentless force Germany’s attack.

So on to planning for 2014 in Brazil. The smart move would be to appoint former Manchester City and present England under-21 coach Stuart Pearce to rebuild the national team from the ranks of young up and coming players. But this is England. Look for Terry, Upson et al. at the back and David Beckham, with a fresh CBE, standing in front of the bench squinting into a Rio de Janeiro sunset wondering where it all went wrong.