Date: 25th June 2012 at 4:10pm
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Ashley Cole feels the pain of England going out.

Ashley Cole feels the pain of England going out.

Shock! Horror! England lose a tournament quarter final on penalties, a United player is blamed for their exit and the guard reassert their intentions to carry on as “next time will be different.”

England’s defeat to Italy was disappointingly predictable regardless of the pre-match hype and bravado many fans, pundits and even players showed before the game. Overall though the tournament can’t really be labelled a complete failure, after all England reached the knockout stages of the competition which is better than we did at the last Euros where we even qualification was beyond us. There were a couple of clean sheets, some goals and Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and even Jordan Henderson got some valuable experience which may come in useful during World Cup qualification.

There were plenty of positives to take from a tournament that was embroiled in for England before a ball was even kicked, but let’s not pretend it was all sunshine and rainbows. England hardly set the world alight and there was little to shout about in the shooting or possession stakes for Roy Hodgson’s men.

So what we did we learn about the England team from the four games we saw at the Euros? Here’s my five things:

The got it right with Hodgson.

Yes, we weren’t amazing and two wins a draw and a loss is hardly enough to make you put money on us winning Brazil 2014 but Roy arguably made the best of a bad situation. Losing your manager months before a major tournament is never easy for a national side, losing him due to an controversial subject involving one of your senior players makes it even more difficult. There’s also the ‘second choice’ tag that Hodgson had to deal with as the people’s champion ‘Arry “hack u up with an hatchet” Redknapp was lauded as the obvious successor to Capello to fans and pundits alike. Add to that late to Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill, Gareth Barry, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker and the absence of the likes of Jack Wilshere and Darren Bent- not to mention Wayne Rooney’s ban and all of a sudden the last eight doesn’t seem so bad after all.

may have made mistakes tactically – especially against the Italians and his squad selection may have baffled some of us- Martin Kelly, Jordan Henderson- but on the whole I think he justified the FA’s faith in him and has laid some good ground work for the upcoming World Cup campaign.

England’s mutual masturbatory club needs to stop.

“Ashley can be our secret weapon, Wayne Rooney’s one of the best strikers in the world, Joe Hart’s the best keeper on the planet, Steven Gerrard’s been the player of the tournament.”

How many silly, erroneous comments from England players do we have to endure at practically every major competition? It’s the same whenever we qualify for a tournament, England players feel the need to dramatically overpraise their colleagues at every opportunity. Some may claim it’s “good for morale” but it simply doesn’t seem to do anyone any favours. Look at the evidence, before the tournament Steven Gerrard labels Ashley Young “England’s secret weapon.” What happens? He has three of his worst England games ever- the Ukraine display wasn’t quite as bad. Then Wayne Rooney bangs on about how “brilliant” and “world class” Steven Gerrard is before the Italy game and what happens? The England skipper is pretty anonymous as Andrea Pirlo completely dominates the game.

I know you can’t expect England players to slag off their team mates, but do we really need these over-the-top ridiculous statements before each game that only seem to add unwanted pressure on a squad with too much expectation often on its shoulders.

Joleon Lescott and Danny Welbeck. Take a bow.

While all the pre-tournemant hype was about Rooney, Gerrard and Young. The two players that impressed me the most over the four England games were from the Red and Blue half of Manchester. While Welbeck may have often been starved of decent service, he did himself proud over the course of the tournament, linking up well with his team mates, running at defences, showing neat touches and grabbing a superb winner against Sweden. It was exactly the sort of performance from Welbeck every United fan knows he’s capable of and he’s surely made himself a regular in Roy Hodgson’s plans.

Despite being a City player, I’m not about to let my Red tinted specs cloud my judgement over Lescott who was far and away the most consistent England defender of the competition. Unlike some of his colleagues- well all of them actually- Lescott showed a good ability to read the game often being the one defender you didn’t notice during the games as he didn’t need to make ‘last-ditch tackles’ due to decent positional sense.

Terry may have got the plaudits -although why is quite frankly beyond me- but there was only one English defender who showed the sort of composure and ability that really justifies the tired old ‘Three Lions’ garbage churned out after every half decent tackle.

Time for the ‘ guards’ to go.

John ‘Lionheart- shag your missus and call you a nasty name’ Terry could well be on his way to a ban that may just end his England career, but even if he isn’t I still question whether he really is the defensive leader to take us forward? The Chelsea skipper is 32 this year and hasn’t been the same player for some seasons now, simply taking credit -and lifting trophies- on the back of previous performances and his team mates.

Steven Gerrard has been labelled a ‘star’ ‘inspirational’ basically for a good performance against a Ukraine side, I doubt anyone reading this can name the midfielders in. Yes Gerrard set up a goal against France and he enjoyed a good spell against Sweden- before disappearing for an almost an hour- until the last ten minutes but let’s get a little bit of perspective. Following the England draw, France lost two of their next three games while Sweden and Ukraine’s record speaks for itself. These were decent teams rather than ‘great’ ones.

The real test came against Italy and both Gerrard and Scott Parker were exposed as the ‘good’ rather than ‘great’ midfielders they are. Both players are over 30 and with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley and maybe even Jordan Henderson- doubtful admittedly- Phil Jones- a midfielder not a defender- and even Henri Lansbury coming through, are Gerrard and Parker really the answer for 2014?

The tools are there for a decent stab at Brazil 2014.

With a squad that featured the likes of Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Martin Kelly, Jordan Henderson, Joe Hart, there’s more than a few younger players who will no doubt be coming into their own over the next season or so. Add to that list Wilshere, Cleverley, Smalling, Walker and Daniel Sturridge and all of a sudden there seems to be a strong looking group of players who could make an impact in the next competition.

I’m not getting carried away and claiming we’re destined to win the world cup- qualification is the first thing to worry about. There’s no reason though, why with so many players under the age of 25 who are making an impression on the international stage, England doesn’t have at least a small chance of causing an upset in Brazil.

Follow me on twitter @RFFH

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