What went wrong at 'Camp Capello'?
World Cup 2010: Rustenburg
As England's World Cup failures filed on to a coach carrying the discredited motto "Playing With Pride And Glory" to make the retreat from Bafokeng, the inquest was in full swing.
England coach Fabio Capello was first in the dock after the humiliating last-16 exit against Germany. He "absolutely" wants to stay on - but the Football Association will buy time before making a decision.
This may not be enough to keep the wolves, or indeed speculation, from Capello and the FA's door, but there is enough wreckage to sift through until his fate is finally decided.
Capello and his England squad were in sombre mood as they left Johannesburg on Monday evening (Photo: AP)
England may not have left Heathrow for Johannesburg almost a month ago with the nation anticipating a return with the World Cup, but no-one expected Capello's experienced squad to land at home with such a collective stain on their reputation.
One victory against the smallest nation in the tournament, Slovenia, was all they had to show for a campaign that failed to create a single ripple of excitement in a vast nation in thrall to this tournament.
Capello, so confident in qualifying, became becalmed even before the squad landed in Rustenburg nine days before their opening game against the United States.
He became entangled in the ill-judged Capello Index, and the clear thinking that had guided the early stages of his tenure became muddled, even chaotic, especially in squad selection.
Capello suggested no injured players would be in the party and the same rules appeared to apply to those not in regular action for their club.
At the last moment, these principles were consigned to Capello's dustbin as injury-riddled Ledley King won a place in the squad and Gareth Barry's ankle problem was overlooked as he was allowed recovery time in Rustenburg. Both decisions were to have serious consequences.
And Capello's obsession with Emile Heskey not only persuaded him to select the striker, when five minutes in the company of just about any Aston Villa fan outside the Holte End would have told him otherwise, but also to play him against the United States and Algeria with inevitable non-results.
The Italian's previous infallibility was stripped away. It was like watching the armour drop off a gladiator. It was an impression reinforced by what looked for all the world like the panic measures of trying to tempt Jamie Carragher and Paul Scholes out of retirement for World Cup duty. Had Capello lost faith in some of the players who qualified with ease?
The troubles continued when England arrived in Rustenburg, although Capello can hardly be blamed for the ill-luck that deprived him of captain Rio Ferdinand when he suffered a serious knee injury in a skirmish with Heskey moments before the end of their first training session.
Capello's failure to decide on a first-choice goalkeeper was another topic for debate in the weeks before the World Cup - and this oversight was to backfire in the most spectacular fashion inside 45 minutes of their campaign.
He entrusted the position to Robert Green, seemingly not with a huge amount of conviction, and was rewarded by a calamitous error from the keeper that gifted the United States a point.
It was an error that appeared to have a psychological effect on England's squad - as did the botched handling of Green's exclusion and the recall of David James for one of the low points of the entire World Cup, the draw with Algeria in Cape Town.
As all indicators pointed to Capello keeping faith with Green, an unimpressive performance in training the night before the game looked to have convinced England's coach of the need for change.
No problem there, except that Capello's insistence that he would stick to his policy of naming his team two hours before kick-off - he even offered reporters who questioned this strategy the opportunity to take his place in the job - was ditched as he changed his mind and the information was leaked to the media.
It was an embarrassing episode for Capello and England.
Until they eclipsed it with the abject display against Germany, England looked to have hit rock bottom against Algeria in the goalless draw.
Wayne Rooney's frustrations bubbled over with an unjustified attack on England's outstanding support at the final whistle - and reports of unrest in the camp went from a whisper to a scream.
Rooney himself had complained of boredom at Bafokeng - "breakfast, training, lunch, bed, dinner, bed" - and the now notorious news conference staged by John Terry, initially designed to present a united front, only opened cracks even further.
The conditions inside the camp were luxurious but the regime was austere, and Capello's iron discipline was also unleashed on an unsuspecting photographer who he believed was taking photographs of the medical room.
Terry indulged in what I regarded as some much-needed plain speaking, but saw himself painted as the ringleader of a behind-the-scenes coup. He revealed plans to get his feelings off his chest in a team meeting, but when the moment came no-one spoke, with some team-mates apparently unhappy at being implicated in this supposed insurrection.
The former captain was effectively hung out to dry and Capello pounced on what he called his "very big mistake" - namely his insistence that Joe Cole should be in the side to reassert his authority.
In my opinion that was Terry's only error and instead of clamping down and reducing his squad to silence, Capello should have addressed any concerns.
And it was Joe Cole, perhaps fuelled by under-use at this World Cup, who hinted again at problems at England's base camp when he spoke of "a lot of issues" that needed to be addressed in the aftermath of the Bloemfontein defeat.
Capello's cold attitude and distant relationship with England's players was easier for them to take in a quick hit than over a long haul. The monastic lifestyle was a sea change from Sven-Goran Eriksson's relaxed approach. It was too much of a switch of extremes - Capello failed to strike the right balance and paid the price.
Rooney's World Cup failed to get anywhere near the huge expectations placed on his shoulders (Photo: AFP)
As Rooney stripped off his red England shirt and trudged away in despair after the embarrassing 4-1 loss against Germany, he was getting to grips with the grim reality that he had experienced a second disappointing World Cup.
He will be 28 when England, they hope, will play in Brazil. Rooney's poor form drove at the very heart of England and Capello's hopes. It was still a major talking point 24 hours later and will be for much longer.
Rooney has never regained the scintillating form that deservedly made him the double footballer of the year after injuring an ankle against Bayern Munich in the Champions League in March.
He was always straining to reach his true level in South Africa, going from sound and fury against the Platinum All Stars to a level of incompetence against Algeria that almost beggared belief in this world-class striker.
After another Capello gamble failed when King lasted only 45 minutes against the United States, so did his hope that Barry would recover fully from ankle problems to anchor his midfield.
Not so much an anchor as a sinking ship, Barry looked desperately off the pace against Germany, no more so than when he laboured in embarrassing fashion as Mesut Ozil set up Thomas Mueller for the fourth goal.
What Capello had total control over was England's tactics, and his almost pre-historic obsession with 4-4-2 led his side over the precipice.
It meant Heskey started in the draws against the United States and Algeria, and when shifts in tactical emphasis did come, Heskey was simply switched for Jermain Defoe. Too rigid.
The formation is in Capello's managerial DNA - I recall sitting next to him at Arsenal's London Colney training headquarters when he announced he would never play with a lone striker. If this World Cup has proved nothing else, it is that this strain of inflexibility is a character flaw.
I have not been alone in pleading for Capello to use Steven Gerrard behind Rooney to bring the best out of both players, but plenty of paracetamol would be needed after banging your head on a brick wall about that one.
Capello's natural conservatism in squad selection also cost him, as he effectively admitted on Monday when he talked expansively about Manchester City's Adam Johnson. If he rates him so highly, then surely he was a better option that his disappointing Eastlands colleague Shaun Wright-Phillips?
These are all questions that will have occupied Capello as he took the flight back to Heathrow from Johannesburg - and they will be questions for the Football Association as they spend the next two weeks deciding whether to extend their relationship with the Italian.
MY ENGLAND WORLD CUP SQUAD RATINGS:
DAVID JAMES: Solid against Algeria and Slovenia and one of the few to emerge with credit after the debacle against Germany. Should have done better with third goal. Now must make way for Joe Hart. 6
ROBERT GREEN: England career may well be over after calamitous error against the United States. 4
GLEN JOHNSON: Mixed tournament that told us nothing we did not already know. Inventive going forward but a liability in defence against class opponents. 5
ASHLEY COLE: Remains a top-class left back and will be an integral part of England's future, but dragged down by the mediocrity around him against Germany. 6
JOHN TERRY: Responded to personal adversity with a fine display against Slovenia but brutally exposed by Germany's pace and movement. Lucky there are no obvious contenders to take his place yet. 5
MATTHEW UPSON: Found wanting at this level. Another whose England career may well be at a close. 5
LEDLEY KING: The gamble that failed. Only 45 uncertain minutes against the United States to show for Fabio Capello's big risk. 4
JAMIE CARRAGHER: Decision to emerge from international retirement earned him two more caps but not much credit. Probably fortunate to miss out on the Germany shambles. 5
AARON LENNON: Was he fully fit after injury problems at Spurs? Disappointing, but will hope to come again. 5
STEVEN GERRARD: Disappointing against Germany but England's best player in South Africa. Last chance of World Cup glory gone. 7
FRANK LAMPARD: So unlucky to be robbed of a goal against Germany, but did not do himself justice overall. 6
GARETH BARRY: Nightmare against Germany will live long in his memory. Another who looked short of fitness in South Africa. 5
JAMES MILNER: Showed signs against Slovenia that he is worth persisting with, but hardly looked like a player Manchester City should spend £20m-plus on. 5
WAYNE ROONEY: Huge disappointment. World Cup passed him by. Was he carrying a more serious injury than we thought? 5
EMILE HESKEY: Poor selection by Fabio Capello after disappointing season at Aston Villa. Missed big chance against the United States and the years of England's indulgence with him must be over. 5
JERMAIN DEFOE: Bright and scored against Slovenia but did not trouble Germany. 6
PETER CROUCH: Token substitute appearances. Capello does not appear to trust him to deliver against elite opposition. 5
JOE COLE: Inexplicably ignored for most of the World Cup. Left a frustrated figure and now looking for a new club. 5
SHAUN WRIGHT-PHILLIPS: Did not have a great season at Manchester City and carried on here. Another with the credits rolling on his England career. 5
MICHAEL DAWSON, STEPHEN WARNOCK, JOE HART, MICHAEL CARRICK UNUSED - NO RATING.