What was the worst moment for England in Brazil?
None of the above.
It was in the wake of England’s humiliatingly early exit when the Football Association’s chairman, Greg Dyke, confirmed Roy Hodgson would be retained as manager until 2016.
Dyke told The Daily Mail:
We’re supportive of Roy, we’ve asked him to stay as manager. Roy has done a good job and it was always an approach for four years and we hope to do better in the European Championship. We do not see any value in changing.
This was an explicit act of surrender; a meek acknowledgement that this was as good as it could possibly get. England have lost their ambition.
Roy Hodgson is an honourable and decent man, but he has now failed to rouse England and ultimately failed at two tournaments.
It should concern England supporters that there is no sense of outrage or appetite for change within the FA hierarchy. England’s expectations have been irreversibly lowered.
The uncomfortable truth is simply being at the World Cup was viewed as an achievement after the comments of the FA’s General Secretary Alex Horne earlier in the year.
When Horne was asked by The Times (via Reuters) what would be required from Hodgson in Brazil, he replied: “Pass mark? For me, personally, he’s done it by getting through that [qualifying] group.”
Brazil was the destination rather than a part of the journey.
England have seemingly relegated themselves to one of those nations just happy to be at the World Cup.
That now-famous throat-slitting gesture by Dyke after England had been drawn in the same group as Italy and Uruguay revealed the Football Association’s lack of ambition.
There was a time not long ago when the FA would boldly try to recruit the best possible manager for England.
While Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello were appointed, Jose Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari were also seriously pursued.
Together this quartet could boast World Cups, Champions League triumphs, Serie A titles and Premier League titles.
Now, however, the FA are happy to stick with a man without any of these baubles, a conservative Fulham and West Brom manager, recently deemed not good enough for Liverpool, who has presided over England's worst performance at a World Cup in 56 years.
I do not lightly advocate for a man, however well paid, to lose their job, but Hodgson has had his chance and failed.
Even within the confines of Group D, the scale of England’s failure is stark.
Hodgson took a squad rich in both experience and youthful potential to Brazil, boasting players from Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, and witnessed them lose to both Italy and Uruguay in their opening two games.
Compare this to the Costa Rican coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who arrived at the tournament with an altogether more modest squad.
Costa Rica’s players are drawn from such clubs as Deportivo Saprissa, CS Herediano, Columbus Crew and Aalesunds FK, and that team defeated both Italy and Uruguay.
The final indignity for England is they will face this Costa Rican side preparing for the knockout stages in the final group game tomorrow in a dead rubber for them.
The FA need to ask how Hodgson failed to coax the best out of a squad of Champions League players, while his counterpart Pinto managed to extract the very best from a group of players more used to performing at a significantly lower level.
Just as concerning is England’s failure to deal with the most obvious threats from both Italy and Uruguay.
Neither team offered any great surprises. My eight-year-old son or any child with a Panini World Cup sticker album could have told you those nation’s biggest threats were Andrea Pirlo and Luis Suarez, and yet England were powerless to deal with either of them.
England need a manager who can recognise a threat and design a plan to nullify it.
There is glib and empty talk of England making progress under Hodgson, but where is the hard evidence?
The opposite is true. Under Sven Goran Eriksson, England reached two consecutive World Cup quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006; even Fabio Capello’s wretched time in South Africa in 2010 saw them reach the knockout stages, and now under Hodgson, England have failed to emerge from their group after just two games.
It is time to move on and entrust this squad to a new manager.
It would appear the main argument keeping Hodgson in his job is the paucity of candidates to replace him.
If the FA maintain their policy of appointing Englishmen, that leaves an unappealing short list of Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew, Harry Redknapp and Steve Bruce from the Premier League.
If they are the alternatives, no wonder the FA prefer to stand by Hodgson, but why not revert to the policy of finding the best man for the job whatever their nationality?
Should Hodgson remain in situ simply because he owns a British passport?
If the FA wanted to remain within the Premier League, and not return to the trophy managers of old, an approach could be made to Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool or Roberto Martinez at Everton.
If England are determined to appoint an Englishman, then Hodgson’s own deputy Gary Neville or the Real Madrid assistant manager Paul Clement, fresh from winning the Champions League, would be bold appointments offering renewed hope.
Roy Hodgson has failed at two tournaments, and so should he falter for a third time at the European Championships in France in 2016, we certainly cannot say we were not warned.
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