The World Cup for Southgate’s England

HIGHLIGHTS | England exit World Cup after Harry Kane misses late penalty in loss to France

comes to a predictable end.

Well they did it again, for the third tournament running – fourth if you count the Nations League – met a decent team that ended England’s chance of winning a trophy, in another over hyped performance that exposed Southgate’s limitations.

It’s so funny hear the pundits and fans alike talk this game by England up and saying that it shows that Southgate is the right man and should stay in the job. When it was the prime example of why Gareth should have been out of here years ago.

Over three tournaments England have beat who they should have beat, apart from the two dull draws against the Jocks, at least year’s Euros, and the Yanks at this WC. While losing four times in the four games when facing a decent team – I’m counting the Euro final as a loss.

Beating Iran and Wales doesn’t win the World Cup.

But people were talking up England’s performance in this game, because they again came so close. Came so close purely due to the French. England could have drawn the game thanks to two penalties from two completely stupid fouls by the French, nothing of England’s doing.

You won’t win a World Cup by passing the ball backwards and sideways in your own half while creating nothing. And that’s what they did for the first half. I read people saying England dominated the game, well yes they had the ball but after the French opened the scoring they just sat back and let England pass it around in their own half, knowing it wasn’t going to threaten their lead.

The other over-hyped performance I kept seeing was that of Kyle Walker, who apparently had Mbappe in his pocket. Well, h played his part in that opening goal.

Mbappe barely got out of first gear throughout the match, he didn’t have to. He’d done his job even before stepping onto the pitch. He was in their head. He was all England were thinking of. His first interaction with Walker saw Mbappe dip his shoulder and Walker race off 10 yards in the wrong direction.

For the goal Mbappe attracted three England players to him, while keeping Stones planted close as well, opening up the middle of the park – funnily enough, Walker wasn’t one of them. It was space Mbappe exploited with a pass out and which he then ran into to receive the ball back.

It looked like Dembele had buggered up their chance, slowing it down – as he did most of the night – but passing it off to Griezmann, he squared it one touch to control and then Tchouaméni smacked it in from yards outside the box. Past the looking like making an effort lunge by Bellingham, while that box packed with England players looked on and Pickford had no chance. There was 8 England players in front of him – not counting Pickford – to 4 French players.

Cue the moaning about the “foul” on Saka. Was it? Probably but the same people who were moaning about that weren’t moaning when Mbappe was being hacked down.

The only real chances England created were by Harry Kane and they were chances out of nothing. Five games in this World Cup and he’s been played one decent ball. They were moaning when Kane was taken down on the edge of the French box. Yup, certainly a foul the ref got that one completely wrong but then they moaned about VAR not overturning it. Well, the foul occurred outside the area, so VAR couldn’t do anything, it wasn’t a pen.

The one real time Mbappe lit the afterburners, he left Walker grasping shirt and then fresh air…

This was moments after England had equalised and I was most surprised Walker didn’t concede a penalty, I suppose England should have been grateful that Walker’s not as quick as they all thought he was.

That equaliser had come from the spot, nine minutes into the second half, England finally getting forward, Saka playing a one two with Bellingham, stupidly taken down by the French player. The pen took an age, Kane looked up to Hugo’s right, Hugo thought it was the bluff, but it was the double bluff, Hugo went to his left, Harry to his right. Lloris wouldn’t have saved it if he’d gone the right way. And Harry joins Rooney as England’s leading goal scorer.

England did actually get into the French half after the break. But it wasn’t the domination the pundits claimed. And while they had Mbappe in their head they totally forgot about Griezmann, who was all over the pitch and while maybe quieter in the second half, still running things.

While Mbappe was still totally occupying England’s thoughts, Walker was following him around like a lost puppy. With Saka repeatedly coming inside, Walker was staying back. Now even in the previous games he wasn’t getting forward to overlap, here he was doing it even less. The one time he set off on his own, charging into the middle, Southgate was up screaming at him in a panic, to get back.

England were lucky that Dembele was failing on the French right, he started off by running rings around Shaw. Triangles and one-twos with Griezmann, were beating Shaw all ends up. But instead of just putting crosses over, Dembele was dithering, England style.

Griezmann laid on their second, to retake the lead, some 20 minutes later. He’d taken the corner which was cleared but was all on his lonesome when played the ball back from that clearance. Eventually someone got out to him but not before he sized up his cross and put it right on Giroud’s head, with Maguire floundering in the striker’s wake.

Maguire had gone close earlier with a header off the post, while France could have answered immediately when Rabiot was left all alone in the middle of the England half.

The next chance to equalise, was the best chance and again it came from dreadful French defending. Bellingham’s cross was going well over the head of Mount and into the arms of Lloris, when the French left-back charged him in the back. Utterly needless and born of the player not actually looking at the ball or having an idea where it was.

Yes the ref got this one completely wrong as he waved play on. VAR eventually told him to take a look and it took an age for him to figure out that it was a barge in the back, which was bleedingly obvious from the first freeze frame of the replay, why he needed to watch it again and again, god only knows. It was nearly four minutes after the incident when Harry took the spot kick.

This time Kane didn’t give a look towards the goal, this time Hugo guessed correct, this time Harry missed, missed badly.

But the build up to that pen really sums up Southgate’s management. Mason Mount. Watching this not work, Southgate decided Mount was the answer. The ultimate nothing footballer, running around doing nothing, was the game changer for Southgate.

At the same time, about 10 minutes from full time, he’d also brought on Sterling. Sterling came on for Saka now Saka was the one player causing the French problems. They were scared of him and were just kicking him. So Southgate took him off. Again Southgate was changing his favourites for his other favourites. One favourite was staying on, Foden.

Now Foden had done nothing, less than nothing. There was complaints that Equipe had given him 4/10 in their marking. Well when you consider that they only gave Griezmann a 7, the Foden is lucky to have registered a mark.

Southgate’s favourites did nothing, there was a miss from a free-kick by Rashford. But England under Southgate was summed up in the dying seconds. The clock had already passed the allotted 8 minutes when Sterling got the ball half way into the french half, dithered about, passed it backwards and then when getting it back crossed it to no one.

That’s this England team all over. That’s Southgate all over. And people are defending this, his mates in the media claiming he’s the only one to lead them. While yet again he’s done nothing. Oh they claim he got them further than anyone else before, yeah because they didn’t meet France, Italy, Croatia earlier, that’s the only reason.

England beat nobodies and lose when it counts the most. As said after either the last tournament, or the one before, Southgate has turned England from hated losers to – in some eyes – lovable losers.

It’s funny when you watch Portugal be insipid and the commentators tell you they’re being rubbish passing it around for passing it around sake, with no penetration. Yet when England do it, they talk it up as intelligent play, being patient. No, it’s insipid rubbish and that’s Southgate’s England.

Gareth Southgate has a striker who has equalled the England goal scoring record and yet at this World Cup, as others, he picked players and a style of play that made sure Kane was only once passed a ball that could be an assist. In five games. Once.

While Griezmann ran the game looking to play his striker and others in to score, Southgate picked the “Me Me Me men” and Maddison sat on the bench.

Southgate said “We think he [James Maddison] can give us something slightly different to the other attacking players we have got.” Southgate picked his favourites.

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