• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 11:13am


PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am

Gelsenkirchen: Well, football's not coming home, after all. Thousands of English fans have been singing this anthem lustily, hoping fervently that after 40 years of waiting, they would be able to bring the trophy home. Apparently the Portuguese players, and their talismanic coach, big Luis Felipe Scolari, hadn't heard it as they blew England out of the water in a dramatic penalty shootout to move into the semi-finals.

England's much-vaunted professionals once again lost their nerve on the big stage. How else can you explain guys like Steve Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Jamie Carragher all missing from the spot. However, while disappointed with their heroes, the fans were pointing the finger of blame at only one man - coach Sven Goran Eriksson. 'What can you do when he adopts negative tactics right through the campaign. If there is anyone who should shoulder the blame, then it must be Sven,' said disgusted English fan Gordon from Newcastle. 'He has to answer for this performance. But what does he care. He is gone with all his booty.'

This is the common reaction - and the most publishable one - from gutted English fans. Most of them had just colourful expletives to vent when I asked them about Sven. They mainly accuse him for picking a squad lacking firepower, especially an extra striker. Having got through an easy group, what was most disappointing was Eriksson's decision to start with just one established striker - Wayne Rooney - and packing the midfield in a defensive shield during the knockout stages. There was no way England were going to win a World Cup in that style. He should have thrown caution to the wind and started with both Rooney and Peter Crouch.

Rooney, on his own up-front, was a frustrated man. To see him having to withdraw deep into his own half to get the ball - as he did a couple of times against Portugal - sums it all up. Attack, they say is the best form of defence. Obviously Eriksson hasn't read this military manual. He was too busy feathering his nest at the FA.

'He's been s****. He picks a team with four strikers, two of whom are not fully fit. One of his fit strikers is a player who has not even played in the Premiership. And did we see Theo Walcott at this World Cup?' asks angry Adam from Devon.

Eriksson's counterpart, Scolari, seems to be touched by the muse. He inspires teams and players. He looks them in the eye, and you come away feeling like a giant, capable of massive deeds.

Scolari is England's jinx. This is the third time he has coached a team who have knocked England out at a major competition. And Portugal's quarter-final victory continues a remarkable run for Scolari - 12 wins on the trot at the World Cup, seven with Brazil as they won the 2002 event, and now five so far with Portugal. No wonder the English FA tried to get him to replace Eriksson. If you can't beat them, get them to work for you.

A dream is over in the meantime. English fans were in mourning yesterday - among them Mick Jagger. Tears were flowing freely. 'I thought we would celebrate a famous win on July 9 in Berlin. Now I just want to take the first flight home,' cried sweet Samantha from Coventry. She, like Jagger, couldn't get any satisfaction.

It was a bad day for English sport overall on Saturday. While the footballers were losing, back at home England's cricketers were being whitewashed by Sri Lanka, who completed a 5-0 rout in the one-day series. To add an even more sombre note, the great Fred Trueman also passed away.

When things go wrong, it happens in droves.

Number of the Day: 62. The minutes on the clock when Wayne Rooney was sent off for stamping on a Portugal player. The red-faced Rooney is only one of three English players to be sent off in a World Cup - the others being David Beckham (1998) and Ray Wilkins (1986).


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive




SCMP.com Account