England's World Cup dreams ended in tatters - and here at skysports.com we've asked some of our top pundits to pick through the wreckage.
Our Soccer Saturday panel - Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson, Phil Thompson, Charlie Nicholas and Alan McInally - have taken time to reflect on England's disappointing efforts in South Africa, which ended after a 4-1 humbling by Germany in the last 16.
Thoughts are now turning to the future of the national team and how to ensure England are more competitive at major tournaments in the coming years.
We asked the panel whether the current crop of players were good enough, whether there is a new generation coming through and what needs to be done to improve the standard of football in England...
skysports.com: This England squad has been described as the 'Golden Generation', but are they not as good as we thought they were? Was this set of players good enough to do better at the World Cup?
CHARLIE: England's players are good enough to compete at this level. What I would say as a Scotsman looking at it from the outside is that people go on too much about this 'Golden Generation'. I played against some very fine English sides in 1982 and 1986 and they were as good as this current group. But since 1966, England have never got to a final. What gives everybody the divine right to say that you're going to get to another final because of these supposedly special players? Those players can only do it in the right system and until you find that system, then things are unfortunately going to stay the same for England.
MERSE: These are players we drool over week in, week out but the only thing I can think of is that they are playing for sides who dominate teams too easily. You can't say it's because there are too many foreign players because the Argentinians and Brazilians play in other leagues, other teams full of foreign players but they can still come together as a team. It has to be the gulf in the Premier League; look at Chelsea, they scored seven goals three times and eight goals once last season - even Barcelona didn't do that. It wouldn't happen in any other league in the world. Yet here are our top players shining like a beacon every week.
McINALLY: There's obviously a gulf in class between the teams in the Premier League, but I don't think it's a case of the players shining in the Premier League because it's easier. They're all very good players, but quite simply they're not as good as we think. It's not easy being a fantastic player but it's much harder being a fantastic team player and that's the difference I feel.
LE TISS: When you see the kind of wages they are earning you automatically go 'he's earning a £100,000 a week, he must be an amazing footballer', but that's not always the case. And it probably affects the players as well. When they're on that kind of money they probably believe they're better than they are sometimes as well.
THOMMO: There's no doubt that every single player underperformed at this tournament. People go on about the players not wearing the shirt with pride, but I think they did. I just think that the words 'England expects' are a millstone around our lad's necks. We all thought we could go there and win, but it's a heavy weight when you're expected to win every game comfortably and to play brilliantly individually and collectively. The problem we had and we've always had is being able to keep the ball. And we as fans we are just as much to blame. We like all the pretty football but as soon as the ball goes wide we're all screaming "get it in the box!" And that's what's expected of them.
MERSE: I think there's a problem with English players - you have to pay too much for them. Look at James Milner, a hard-working right winger, nothing special, yet Manchester City are going to have to pay £35million for him, when Barcelona have just signed David Villa for £34million. I'm not saying its his fault but that has to be a problem when you wonder why our players don't get a chance to play for these big clubs.
CHARLIE: Some of these guys have won Champions Leagues and have reached the top, top level of modern-day football. They've proved they can do it - but within the extreme pressures of international football they need a man who can understand them and relax them. If only they could have a modern-day Bobby Robson.
LE TISS: I also don't think we've ever had a squad with so many players in it who are not regulars for their club sides, including two of our four strikers. Peter Crouch wasn't a regular for Spurs all season and certainly Emile Heskey wasn't at Aston Villa. You could even argue that Jermain Defoe was a little bit in and out. I think it made Capello look a bit stupid because he said I'm only going to pick people who are playing week in, week out for their clubs. But he's obviously looked at it and thought 'well if I don't pick them what have I got left?' And that is a big, big worry for me.
skysports.com: Can you give the readers some hope for the future? Do you see a crop of players coming through to improve the side in the future?
CHARLIE: They're not coming through yet and there's a lot of work to be done in that area. England's biggest problem is still ball retention; going sideways and waiting for the moment to knock it forward and use it cleverly. They need to provide a springboard for their better players and maybe it will take a group of fairly ordinary youngsters to gel for the next two or three years and then take it from there.
LE TISS: When you look at the next generation coming through I'm just not sure there's the quantity there. We've got bits of quality here and there like Adam Johnson and in fact I was a bit surprised he was left out the squad. He was one of our more consistent performers at the back end of last season and yet he was left out for people like Shaun Wright-Phillips who couldn't get into Man City's team. But despite a few players like Johnson I just don't think there's the quantity there that we've had come through in recent years which is a bit of a shame and of course a worry too.
McINALLY: I agree it's tougher to reel of names than you think it would be. You look at the U21 team that lost in the final to Germany last year and there are a few good players in that team, but none that you would say are going to push Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, or Wayne Rooney out of the team. I think Jack Wilshere is a very clever boy and there was a case for taking him to South Africa. Jack Rodwell looks like he's going to be a superstar too, he's growing at a rate of knots and he's had a few injuries but I certainly think that a year down the road he'll be a lot stronger and he certainly has an opportunity. Another player that has caught my eye is Chris Smalling who joined Manchester United from Fulham. I remember seeing him against Burnley for Fulham in the League Cup and he stood out like a sore thumb. He was absolutely different class that day and I think he has every chance of becoming an England defender.
MERSE: I look at the young players we've got coming through and I think Rodwell and Wilshere, maybe the lad Johnson... but I can't reel you off 20. And as good as these kids may be, is Wilshire going to play every week at Arsenal? Rodwell might, but at the big clubs they won't - which means they are never going to be able to compete when it comes to a World Cup. We were talking about this team being the best we've ever had at a World Cup, but I look back at that team that started against Argentina back in 1998 and I don't see too many of this lot getting in that team, I really don't.
CHARLIE: England's Under-21's has always been successful and there's always been players coming through, even if there's no outstanding talent. We're all waiting for Walcott to kick in and Wilshere will become a very good player - but the question mark will always be there. Can they handle the pressure at international level? The more they play consistently for big clubs then their mentality will grow. The young players have to learn the right mentality. That's the key.
THOMMO: I think we've proved at the junior levels that we have got some good players because we always seem to compete, so we can't knock ourselves too much. People are always complaining that there are too many foreigners playing in our league, but I don't think anyone has an issue with the good ones; it's just there are too many average ones. Maybe we should be giving some of our younger lads who represent England and play in the lower leagues a chance in the Premier League instead. Our Under-21s got to the final of the European Championships last year so it's not all bad. Yes improvements need to be made, especially at academy level, but we are still competing. We just need to get a few of these younger players into our top flight teams to show what they can do.
Charlie Debling (Manchester City fan) says...
i think the england players are amazing sometimes they get lods of money 100,000 a week . i think capello should put more young guys abit like jon steadfrom ipswich did you see the goal he scored against middlesbough that was a cracker what a goal. come on fabio capello send beckham in again what a player he is. come on fabio
Posted 12:39 13th August 2010
Eric Northeast (Osasuna fan) says...
Capello clear-out ???. Laughable.Out go the players on the periphery of the main team.All the players involved in the world cup fiasco still there earning their millions. Okay so one of your "experts" mentions Crouch as not even being a regular for Spurs, but I seem to remember him managing to accidently poke the ball in the net now and again for England.With Defoe they seemed to work well together. Heskey...do me a favour. Ah well...Capello a hard man ?? Don''t worry guys...player power is still alive and doing well.
Posted 09:36 8th August 2010
Steven Meachin (Arsenal fan) says...
i think we just have to look at arsenal with players such as gibbs wilshere eastmond and also theres rodwell rooney will still be around. but i think we need to follow barcelona and make the top clubs produce players through school and football. so it is more like boarding school and everyone is happy.
Posted 22:39 7th August 2010
Steve Bruce (Sunderland fan) says...
Am i really missing something or is everybody totally oblivious to the fact that darren bent scored 24 premier league goals for a team that finished bottom half, how does jermaine defoe become a definate in the england side when he scored 5 or 6 goals less! And for heskey?! the man wins a header and now he''s in the setup! Picking people based on form? Why was john terry there, why was carragher, why was wright phillips and robert green? oh i forgot they all play for clubs outside the north east! It was the same with kevin phillips when he was here, socring 30 a season, play people who are playing well for their clubs but stop playing overated/paid superstars who proved they can''t do it on the big stage, the question we should be asking is are we going to make the group stages for the euro''s!
Posted 14:04 4th August 2010
Lee Osmond (Liverpool fan) says...
I think that the standard of players produced by England since the influx of foreign players has improved immensely and I believe in quality over quantity. The problem with England is that every manager despite making bold and empty statements about being ruthless. Picks players on reputation and not on form. Spain are blessd with outstanding central midfielders Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso,Fabregas too name a few but do Spain play all of them in the starting line up. Of course not no matter how good they are there. Fabregas is more often than not on the bench yet if Spain had the same backward mentality Fabregas would be playing out of position in left midfield disrupting the balance of the team. Its down to the players to fit the system not the system to fit the players. If players where played in their natural positions you would soon see an improvement in the quality of football played, ball retention and chances created. something England haven''t done for a long long time. Stop trying to accomodate big names and play players on form who will be ten times hungrier.
Posted 12:38 4th August 2010
Benjamin Macey (Arsenal fan) says...
It''s easy to blame an infux of foreign players, But i''ve looked at this from a different perspective.. How many English players ply thier trade in a league other than the EPL? Over the past 2 tournaments the only two players where anyone has said "They didn''t do too bad" were David Beckham, And Owen Hargreaves, Two players that have both played abroad in diifferent leagues. As an example of what i''m thinking, How many of the Brazil team play in Brazil? Not many. And has that stopped them winning tournaments? No. You just get the feeling they only know how to play football one way, and it''s not working!
Posted 09:24 4th August 2010
Simon Bush (Rochdale fan) says...
to say you cant play gerrard and lampard in the same midfield and should have played to rooneys strengths.it was gerrard and lampard feeding mr ego all through the qualifiers that made him the top scorer.shrek failed at the world cup because teams defended him well and didnt give him space.hes not that good
Posted 21:50 3rd August 2010
Clifton Ricketts (Manchester United fan) says...
i thought england done aswell as they could with the team that they had. Half the players had either been injured/tired or out of form, can someone tell me apart from 1966 what other final have they got to (european or world)? when capello first came i thought he was the man!! but when he said he was waiting on BARRY!!!!! I knew he wasnt.Why he didnt take johnson still amazes me.Were just not good enough, until we stop kids playing in the park on FULL-SIZE pitches with FULL-SIZE goals and SIZE-5 footballs we will always struggle.Simple!!!
Posted 20:35 3rd August 2010
Khemis Ezibon (Manchester United fan) says...
England will never win the World unless they make the use of the young generation, Like Ashely young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Walcott, Wright Phillips, Wayne Bridge, Gibbs, Frazer Campbell, etc. And for the players like Emily Heskey, Frank Lampard of Chelsea, carrager of Liverpool, Rio Ferdinand, and Rooney should work hard and stop command or otherwise.
Posted 19:17 3rd August 2010
Gary Holdstock (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...
Simply put, some of them believe they are better than others and are big babies when they dont get their own way. Terry for instance, obviously reacted to the slanderous gossip about Gerrard and didnt want to play with him. Joe Cole kept out of it and has obviously decided to leave Chelsea where the main culprit of Englands Dia performance is. I hate the fact that they have caused the England team to look like a bunch of idiots. The fans should be given their money back.
Posted 12:33 3rd August 2010
Chris Ryan (Everton fan) says...
The reason England are under achievers is a much bigger issue than players being under too much pressure from the media etc, they deal with media pressure daily as part of their job. Quite simply our whole attitude to football needs addressing. Children in teams in this country play kick and run football, we are encouraged to put big children in defence because they can kick it further and let the small quick strikers chase after it and hopefully score.meanwhile in other countries they do not even use positions but everything is about retaining possesion and improving technically. I hear fans moan in this country if a ball is passed backwards we demand the ball is moved forward as quick as possible if possesion is lost at least they tried! Also professional clubs in England only want to take children that are physically strong and tall even if there are children much better technically this would not be the case in other countries. Rant over!
Posted 09:02 3rd August 2010
Ronald Shaw (Aston Villa fan) says...
England Will Never have enough Talented Players to form a top International team while we have club owners and foreign managers that with Billions to play with who only want to buy ready made international ''''stars" in the hope of "buying" our trophies. The F.A. should do their utmost to outlaw this practice and get back to a home produced team system which would almost force the clubs to have Academies for up and coming players. I am sure the talent is out there.
Posted 11:02 30th July 2010
Richard Cooper (Manchester United fan) says...
We werent good enough at all at world cup, u definately cant play gerrard and lampard in the same midfield and we didnt play to rooneys strengths its easy to blaim him, but the blaim lies with the people who failed to give him any service, and jack ''o sullivan who said " You Think He Would Have Got The Message After The Group Stage That Rooney Was Not Good Enough", even though rooney finshed top goal scorer in qualifying and setting new record of 9 goals for england in qualifying over passing lineker who had 8 you clearly dont know what your talking about.
Posted 00:07 30th July 2010
Roy Mason (Manchester United fan) says...
i am an irishman but do like to see the english team do well. the english players seem fantastic every week in the premiership when they drilled into playing a certain system, but dont have the same ability as the spanish or brazilians to adapt to a new system and play in a different role. arguably the two best players- gerrard and rooney failed to make an impact when they played a different role, and terry was even concerned about having to play on the right of a centre back insted of the left. i think that the english game has some of the best managers in the world and they manage to get the best out of these ''slightly above average'' players. i do think there is promise though in the coming years though and capello should start playing the likes hart, dawson, young, agbonlahor, walcott, rodwell, johnson, downing, etc. even if these players arent quite at international standard yet, playing these players is an investment for the future as they will gain invaluable experience now. if capello picks all the golden oldies (carra, king, james, lamps, heskey, beckham, etc.) for the euro qualifiers then in to years time, england will be back to where they are now- with ageing players who have passed it and young players who are inexperienced
Posted 18:23 29th July 2010
Mike Kemble (Manchester United fan) says...
Because of all the foreign players in the leagues, we are very short of english class. The current England squad picks itself and it shows in the way they play - or don''t play to be more accurate. Their wallets weigh them down too. England players should not be paid either, but pay for national pride.
Posted 13:40 29th July 2010
Yonulu Garcia (Barcelona fan) says...
Under 19. Spain 3 England 1. Can be 6-1 easy. Too many diference between types of play
Posted 19:00 27th July 2010
Jack O''sullivan (Crystal Palace fan) says...
England Were Nowhere Near Good Enough To Win The World Cup. Capello Brought To Many Injured Players And He Didnt Go By Who Was On Form He Went By The Big Names. He Played Gerrard And Lampard In The Same Team When Everybody Knows They Cant Play Together. He Played John Terry Even Though He Was Off Form Even For Chelsea At The End Of The Season. You Think He Would Have Got The Message After The Group Stage That Rooney Was Not Good Enough. I Dont Understand Why Heskey Was Brought And Not Bent Or Carlton Cole. I Also Dont Understand What Crouch Has To Do To Get In The Team. He Never Gets Played And He Nearly Always Scores When He Comes On. He Must Be One Of The Most Underated Strikers In England. I Also Think Joe Hart Would Have Been A Much Better Choice For Goalkeeper Than Rob Green Or David James. We Need To Get Rid Of Capello And Bring In Someone Like Harry Redknapp Or Roy Hodgson, And We Need To Bring In The Youngsters Like Dan Gosling, Jack Rodwell, Nathanial Clyne, Adam Johnson And Leighton Baines.
Posted 16:50 27th July 2010
Connor Mcgauley (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...
I believe that teams should look at Tottenham as an example for a true english premier league club. With such up and coming ENGLISH talent they are a prime example. Look at the players we have comnig through the ranks and on the way to the first team: Danny Rose, Kyle Naughton, Micheal Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, John Obika, jsut to name but a few. Some of these are almost practically regualrs. Can you name that amount of young english talent that plays for a team such as Arsenal.
Posted 08:25 27th July 2010
John Featherstone (West Bromwich Albion fan) says...
Problems: 1) We didn''t pick in-form players, simply players who were big names. Rooney didn''t deserve a place in the starting 11, that was clear, Upson ought to have been taken off against Germany after the second goal. 2) We didn''t have a passing midfielder. Both Lampard and Gerrard aren''t passing midfielder, they''re players who run with the ball and take it to the opposition and score goals, we need at least one passing midfielder. In all honesty, only Wilshere would really work here. 3) We didn''t have enough up-front. We needed to take Bent, I''m quite certain he''d of performed a lot better than Heskey, hell - take Delfounso instead of Crouch. 4) We didn''t pick the right formation or the right set of players for their correct positions, Fabio doing things incorrectly. 5) We hyped this up, once again, too much. They''re -very- good players, but it just ends up being a burden. 6) We had a bad start. Once you get both the result and more importantly the performance of the first game, and subsequently the second and third, you simply can''t drive on with confidence - our players weren''t playing with confidence. 7) There''s never a belief we can win. Spain and it''s players believed they were good enough, they don''t say ''Oh, it''s only Xavi'' as we do with Gerrard. The players go out expecting and believing they''ll win, we simply don''t. 8) Do they care? You''d have to make a case that a few of our players didn''t really care enough, and there''s more dedicated players we might have chosen - younger players who''re eager to do well for their country.
Posted 01:13 27th July 2010
Khaleel Ahmed (Liverpool fan) says...
its the english players when they enter a major cup, they struggle to keep up with the big boys, england stuggled in the group stage against lower opposition and you dont expect them to beat germany england can not cope with pressure from media and fans and flop in major tournaments.
Posted 00:20 27th July 2010