COACH’S FU­TURE:

World Soccer - - Front Page -

Kozak stays in charge for World Cup qual­i­fiers. In the end, the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons gave up their crown with a whim­per. They had ap­peared to put the 2014 World Cup dis­as­ter be­hind them with im­pres­sive per­for­mances in their open­ing two games, but were spooked by Croa­tia in their fi­nal group match, when a draw would have seen them top the pool. They then failed to rise to the oc­ca­sion against Italy, when coach Vi­cente Del Bosque could not cope with tactics that sti­fled Spain’s mid­field. An­dres Ini­esta looked as if he might fill the void left by Xavi and Xabi Alonso, but Spain needed new blood and an ex­tra de­fen­sive mid­fielder along­side Ser­gio Bus­quets. Thi­ago and Koke did not fea­ture enough, but the de­ci­sion to leave Diego Costa out of the squad was vin­di­cated by the form of Al­varo Mo­rata.

An­dres Ini­esta, David De Gea.

Ser­gio Bus­quets, David Silva. played their best foot­ball in the open­ing game against Rus­sia, when man­ager Roy Hodg­son’s nat­u­ral cau­tion prompted the sub­sti­tu­tion of Wayne Rooney be­fore Rus­sia’s late, un­de­served equaliser. Hodg­son made bold half-time changes against Wales – the first ever dou­ble half­time sub­sti­tu­tion by Eng­land at a tour­na­ment – but he faced crit­i­cism for rein­vent­ing Rooney as a mid­fielder and his loy­alty to the mis­fir­ing Ra­heem Ster­ling. A tired Harry Kane and an out-of-sorts Joe Hart con­trib­uted to Eng­land’s woes. The in­evitable post-tour­na­ment in­quest must surely cen­tre on the cause of Eng­land’s men­tal fragility at ma­jor tour­na­ments. Eric Dier.

Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Ra­heem Ster­ling, Joe Hart.

Hair-rais­ing…Marek Ham­sik ex­celled against Rus­sia

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