Awful England cap worst World Cup since 1958 with dire draw

Jun 25, 2014
Bill Mann

But Hodgson and England fans try to put a positive spin on another dismal display in Brazil

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

How bad was it? Awful. Actually, it worse than awful, it was an embarrassment, possibly the most dispiriting England display for more than half a century, since the 1958 World Cup when that clueless crop of players returned home from Sweden having failed to win any of their three games. At least they had the excuse of playing three games in a week, unlike this bunch pampered, preening underperformers who required 11 days to confirm to the world the extent of their uselessness.

Where there any positives? Well, the weather was good. Otherwise it was an unmitigated disaster with Daniel Sturridge spurning any number of chances, Jack Wilshere falling over a lot and Chris Smalling unable to pass a ball accurately more than ten yards. No, make that five. It took Costa Rica about 20 minutes to realise they had the measure of England, these Lions with no claws. So they simply went on to cruise control, conserving their energy for Sunday's Last 16 encounter with Greece.

England's performance was summed up on 81 minutes when Rooney and Gerrard, both fresh having come on as substitutes, failed even to execute the most simple of one-twos. As the ball rolled into touch, the camera panned to Roy Hodgson on the touchline. The England coach had his head bowed. Was he, like the rest of us, unable to believe what he was seeing? Apparently not. In one of the more surreal post-watch interviews, Hodgson said: "We showed today what a good team we can be... I'm pleased we gave the fans something to cheer about with our performance."

Ah, yes, the England fans. On the one hand you have to admire men and women prepared to fork out thousands of pounds to travel to the other side of the world to watch their side score two goals (their fewest since the 1950 tournament) and collect one point in three World Cup matches. But one wonders what sort of misguided loyalty led them to chant and sing of their love for their players and manager at the end of this dire match. This England squad aren't plucky losers, they're just losers, unable to beat Uruguay (population 3.3 million) and Costa Rica (population 4.8 million).

But if the manager and players weren't able to offer an accurate assessment they were plenty who were. Andy Townsend, ITV's analyst, muttered near the end of the match that England "need some serious help", while over on the BBC former England defender Danny Mills was even more scathing: "I am struggling to see anything positive about this performance," he said. "This at the moment really is rock bottom."

That moment came in the second half when Sturridge was presented with a golden opportunity to score from six yards out. But the Liverpool striker failed to control the ball with just the Costa Rican keeper to beat. It was dreadful but asked about the miss Hodgson replied: "I'm not concerned about Daniel Sturridge, he'll take goal chances in the future." Mind boggling. Roy wants us to be patient, as we have with Wayne Rooney and his one goal in 11 Wold Cup games. If the manager sets the bar so low, little wonder his players will never bother to raise themselves.

So England fly home today, along with Italy, whose 1-0 defeat to Uruguay sees them eliminated at the group stage for the second consecutive tournament. Manager Cesare Prandelli resigned afterwards but English football does things differently. Failure is celebrated in song, like the lusty rendition of "Always look on the bright side of life" that reverberated round the Belo Horizonte stadium as the Brazilians in the crowd looked on bemused.

But then what do the locals know? They may have won five World Cups, but there's only one Frankie Lampard.

Sign up for our daily newsletter