Plummer’s player ratings
WHAT a sorry state of affairs.
Judging by the amount of horntooting on Bourges Boulevard yesterday tea-time, you would have thought England had already won the World Cup.
Not just beaten the 25th best team in the world by a single goal to limp through the group stages in second place.
Despite England’s undeniable dominance in Port Elizabeth, watching the action unfold left me feeling about as comfortable as John Terry when taking a fidelity test.
I witnessed an England team lacking a killer instinct go through far too many worrying moments at the other end before booking their place in the round of 16.
Yes we’ve come through the group stage undefeated and yes, we did when we could have died. But this was no cakewalk. Far, far from it.
But for some desperate blocks from Terry and defensive partner Matthew Upson, and a poorly-timed swing of Valter Birsa’s left boot, we may well have been reading a different story right now.
That said the tempo was terrific, a lot of passing was pretty and chances kept on coming. We should have won 3-0 and could have won 5-0.
But we didn’t - we came through 10 and we will pay the price for such profligacy in front of goal in future matches. What yesterday was a palpitation could on Sunday become elimination.
At least Jermain Defoe justified his inclusion by scoring with his first touch - in the 22nd minute! - after a stunning cross from another surprise selection, the terrific James Milner.
Defoe could have added two more goals from roughly seven more touches, but still managed to succeed where others have failed.
None more so than Wayne Rooney who gurned his way through another largely lifeless international appearance. He was on hand to see a golden second-half chance turned onto a post by the fingertips of an impressive Slovenian keeper before being substituted because his ankle was ‘not so good’.
That’s a condition which, based on the evidence of the past three games, is clearly not exclusive to one particular part of his body. I’m afraid Rooney looks roobish.
And his dismal form is not the only problem. Our big players just ain’t doing the business.
Lampard is a let-down and skipper Steven Gerrard is clearly playing in the wrong position.
Rooney’s exit yesterday led to a belated entrance for Joe Cole - the player who the nation have demanded to see included. Cole did little in his 18 minutes to suggest he is the master lock-picker so many claim.
The man most likely to carve open opponents is Milner who has skill, speed and precise crossing ability in his locker. That is unlikely to be enough though.
Maybe my glass is just half-empty. Maybe I should borrow a pair of Harry Redknapp’s rose-tinted glasses.
“There wasn’t a weakness in the team,” the Tottenham manager cheerfully told BBC viewers. “I think we’ve got a big chance to win it.”
I admire his optimism, but I’ll add a dose of realism. Unfortunately I reckon we have about as much chance of winning the World Cup as France - and they’re already home.