Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Goodbye, England; Goodbye, Steve McLaren

England's 3-2 loss today at Wembley was a tough one to stomach for obvious reasons. Scott Carson's horrible misplay of a Niko Kranjčar right-footed drive put Croatia ahead after just eight minutes, and then England's defense hung Carson out to dry just six minutes later as Ivica Olic walked in alone and rounded him to make it 2-0.

To be fair, England deserve full credit for fighting back from two goals down and in the 65th minute, Peter Crouch's spectacular volley (from a beautiful service by second-half sub David Beckham) levelled the game. At this point, England and their fans visibly heaved a sigh of relief and the Three Lions seemingly took their foot off the gas, content to escape with the draw that would've advanced them to Euro 2008.

Croatia, however, would have none of it and Mladen Petric's 77th minute goal was a dagger into England's heart. The hosts really didn't get much going after that aside from a decent effort by Darren Bent just five minutes from time, and as a result, won't be headed to Austria and Switzerland next summer.

Croatia deserves full credit as well for their professionalism and they way they competed. They had already qualified fur Euro 2008 regardless of what happened today and had nothing to play for other than pride. The Croats could've sat back and played not to lose but instead they came out and attacked and made the game theirs.

Russia's 1-0 victory against Andorra today eliminated England from Euro 2008 contention as a Russian draw or loss still would've seen England through despite their defeat. Guus Hiddink's team earned the right to go to this tournament and they are the worthy runners-up to Croatia in Group E.

Steve McLaren's job is obviously now in serious threat and if he's not fired tomorrow morning, I would be shocked. There is no excuse for England, a self-proclaimed world power, to not qualify for this tournament or any tournament for that matter, but they've regressed as a team from where they were under Sven-Goran Eriksson and that's simply not good enough. England's players will get a nice break next summer; hey, maybe they can do a little sightseeing in Geneva or Vienna!

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