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McClaren delivers a shambles

International football
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England coach Steve McClaren issued a lengthy list of demands to his players before they entered battle in Zagreb.

The meaningless soundbites rolled off the tongue as McClaren called for "character... pride... passion... attitude... an English performance."

England captain John Terry even joined in the jingoism by announcing he was to deliver a Churchillian speech to rally the troops.

All splendid stuff - and all obviously left behind in the dressing room as McClaren's supposedly brave new era was exposed as a sham.

Talk of football and how England might win this game was conspicuous by its absence.

This became more understandable given the clueless efforts of McClaren, his tactical guru Terry Venables, and England's players.

McClaren's trademark grin has graced almost every occasion since his appointment.

Sadly for McClaren, it was wiped emphatically and humiliatingly off his face by a Croatia team prepared and inspired in a far superior fashion by his colourful counterpart Slaven Bilic.

McClaren's list of cliches and Terry's tub-thumping inspired a performance devoid of all the qualities they listed.

England, as so often before, talked a far better game than they actually played.

The only surprise is that anyone should be surprised that this team of players, cossetted and almost treated as a superior race by the Football Association, should flop again.

Croatia deserved their win, admittedly helped by a freak second goal when keeper Paul Robinson missed Gary Neville's back-pass.

But England produced a lifeless, atrocious performance that lacked direction and inspiration and will only increase the doubts of a nation decidedly underwhelmed by McClaren's arrival in Soho Square.

And as for McClaren's quote afterwards about hoping to "sneak" a win - what a depressing message for an England coach to convey.

McClaren's, and Venables' lest we forget, tactical switch to 3-5-2 created uncertainty and incompetence in equal measure.

Ironically, it was only Robinson who kept Croatia out until the 61st minute and Eduardo's looping header.

England's display was in keeping with their palsied efforts at the World Cup and on Saturday against Macedonia.

Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch were poor, but where was the faster, better service McClaren's overhaul was supposed to provide?

McClaren's reshuffle, with the deserved introduction of Scott Parker, did not stiffen midfield as Croatia created all the chances.

Ashley Cole had a nightmare at left-back, flouting his billing as the world's best in that position.

And the Michael Carrick myth continues.

Manchester United's 18m man could only show less urgency in possession if he actually fell asleep on the ball.

And a defence that had looked sound, even when England had struggled previously, looked ill-at-ease and exposed thanks to McClaren's tinkering.

If a Sven-Goran Eriksson side had produced this performance, one can only wonder at the blood-letting that would be demanded.

McClaren was an integral part of that regime, and this defeat was more of the same - only worse.

England's coach will need all his spin doctors at his side to paint a pretty picture of his recent days in office.

He was outmaneouvred by a rookie coach in Bilic, who at least backed up his brave talk before the game with actions.

Bilic has transformed a Croatia side that had a dreadful World Cup.

McClaren has taken a side that had a dreadful World Cup and delivered no discernible improvement.

Croatia were lively, created chances, and took full note of Bilic's message that McClaren's tactical shift was playing into their hands.

England and McClaren now have five months to ponder two poor performances before the serious Euro 2008 action resumes against Israel in March.

McClaren will hope missing stars of the calibre of Steven Gerrard and Owen Hargreaves are fit and available.

And he must also find more than a few throwaway words - as well as a tactical plan that works - if the doubts expressed when he was appointed in such haste by the FA are not to increase.

Latest 10 comments

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posted Oct 14, 2006

That was the point that the Croatians made they couldn't believe that Beckham was being left out. We were all sick of the auto matic selection policy of SGE but Lampard, Rooney, Terry etc still get this preferential treatment despite SGE's disappearance. There are other players out there good ones at that, and risking Gerrard against Macedonia was naive too!

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comment by claret4 (U6127248)

posted Oct 14, 2006

comments about lack of available players is misleading perhaps if MacClaren cast his web a bit wider he`d find players like the inform AVFC captain Gareth Barry !

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comment by shimmy (U2695085)

posted Oct 15, 2006

What really got me was McClaren's reluctance to make a change. I agree that both goals were unlucky but it was obvious the system wasn't working. He should have changed things at half time. Failing that immediately after the first goal, but no he still waited. When the subs finally did come on they made an impact, I think the match would have turned out very differently if they had been made earlier.

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posted Oct 17, 2006

Gypsy: can't say it better. Bad leaders talk about cliches like passion and patriotism. Good leaders analyze their task carefully, come up with the best plan they can, and train everyone thoroughly both to carry it out and believe in it. England reminds me of a bad restaurant--you can blame the people who prepare and serve the food, but the real problem is poor management.

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posted Oct 17, 2006

in that case, just like staff in a restaurant, the england players are nothing special? Reliant completely on a manager for their performance.

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posted Oct 18, 2006

more like cold lasagne & gone off prawn cocktail...

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posted Oct 19, 2006

Forza Napoli
He played three then got injured early on in the fourth, so he played fewer games and got as many goals.
also is it not possible that matterazzi was simply on form, as was rooney in euro 2004? yes it is and that is the point i was tryin to make
rooney, as well as many other england players can be good enough when on form, its just that too many are played out of position and are off form at the moment

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posted Mar 29, 2007

why not pick the next team via an big brother selction process and Sack McClown if this side performers better.What a series that would create......ANy takers

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comment by U14146509

posted Sep 25, 2009


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