No defense as England slit their own throats


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England's Phil Jones ,Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney react after the match against Costa Rica during their 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 24, 2014. England's Phil Jones ,Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney react after the match against Costa Rica during their 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 24, 2014.
England's World Cup campaign appeared cursed from the moment English FA chairman Greg Dyke made his infamous throat-slitting gesture when they were drawn against Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay last December.
Perhaps England's players took his message a little too literally because they slit their own throats on the field with inept defending that led to the narrow defeats against Italy and Uruguay which buried them.
Dyke laughed off his inappropriate "joke" at the time but no-one involved with England is laughing now after a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica and those two losses meant a swift departure following their worst World Cup since 1958.
Millions of words were written before and after England's campaign but any analysis of their dismal tournament boils down to seven of them: they were just not good enough - again.
England played well enough in parts in the 2-1 defeat by Italy, and were undone by the superb opportunism of England's Footballer of the Year from Liverpool, Luis Suarez, who scored Uruguay's goals in their 2-1 win in Sao Paulo last Thursday.
But ultimately there was not enough quality or self-belief, or faith from coach Roy Hodgson in his youngsters when it was needed most. Some of Hodgson's tactics were questionable and, though widely liked and respected, his future must be in doubt.
Sorry chapter
Tuesday's disappointing 0-0 draw against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte brought the sorry saga to an end, but the depressing, story of failure that stretches back 48 years to their only World Cup win in 1966, shows no sign of a fresh plot twist yet.
At least, for once, England did not leave home being hyped as potential winners, and Hodgson's squad selection, with the exception of some debate over whether 33-year-old Ashley Cole or Luke Shaw, 18, should play at left back, was uncontroversial.
But what was so disappointing was that Hodgson did not give the youngsters, apart from Raheem Sterling, 19, a real chance to make an impression when England were still in contention.
Against Italy, England had already been trailing 2-1 for 23 minutes before the creative Jack Wilshere, 22, replaced the anonymous Jordan Henderson with 17 minutes to play.
Winger Adam Lallana, 26 years old but a novice in terms of international experience, was given the last 10 minutes to try to change the game and England's powerful creative midfielder Ross Barkley, 20, got nine minutes.
Inexplicably, Hodgson chose the same starting XI against Uruguay with just one positional change up front, with Wayne Rooney playing in the center and the ineffective Danny Welbeck playing wide on the left.
Sterling started brightly but faded against Uruguay until being replaced by Barkley with under half-an-hour to play, Lallana got less than 20 minutes and Wilshere was not used.
Meanwhile, an ageing and tiring Steven Gerrard, now 33, labored in midfield and lost the ball that allowed Italy to break for their winner, while against Uruguay he bungled an attempted headed clearance that led to Suarez's winner.
Suicidal defending
Those errors followed earlier suicidal defending by central defenders Gary Cahill versus Italy and Phil Jagielka against Uruguay.
Cahill allowed Mario Balotelli to slip away from him to head what proved to be Italy's winner in Manaus, while Jagielka was guilty of a similar error to allow Suarez to head Uruguay's first goal in Sao Paulo.
There were some bright spots for England but too few to give them any chance of reaching the last 16.
Rooney scored his first World Cup goal and looked effective back in his preferred central role.
Sterling showed glimpses of his potential, while Daniel Sturridge, who scored against Italy, looks worth his place in attack. Joe Hart was as sound as any keeper at the finals.
But terrible defending, and a lack of faith in his own convictions from Hodgson, proved fatal and means England's long wait for glory goes on.

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