England flopped at SWC
Fabio Capello (AP)
Bloemfontein - Legitimate goal or not, England flopped at the Soccer World Cup and it's not just the future of coach Fabio Capello that's in doubt. VIDEO: Lampard's goal is ignored
The 4-1 scoreline in Sunday's loss to Germany in the second round provided a stark reality that the so called golden generation of Premier League stars weren't good enough to mount a strong World Cup challenge even with one of the most respected coaches in the game in charge.
Capello said Frank Lampard's disallowed goal at 2-1 down might have changed the game if it had been given. Lampard's shot hit the underside of the bar, clearly bounced over the line and spun back into play. It wasn't given, the score remained 2-1 and Germany went on to win with ease.
But the blunder by the referee and his linesman could not disguise how a young German side repeatedly sliced through Capello's midfield and defense while his strikers rarely threatened.
Since it won the World Cup in 1966 - involving a similar dispute over whether a ball crossed the goal line - the England team has never been able to meet often unrealistically high expectations.
Bobby Robson's team got to the 1990 semifinals but lost on penalties to the Germans. Apart from that, England has not managed to get past the quarterfinals and its failures and associated hard-luck claims have almost become part of the game's folklore.
Capello's best excuse for this flop - apart from the disallowed goal - was tiredness.
"We probably arrived a little bit tired at the end of the season," he said. "But after the game that they played against Slovenia, we suffered from Germany's speed today(Sunday)."
Capello, whose contract runs through the Euro 2012 championship, was asked repeatedly at the post-game news conference whether he would resign.
Despite saying "absolutely not" he raised uncertainty about his position by saying he would have to talk over his future with the Football Association chairman when the squad arrived back in London.
But what about the futures of his players?
Although Rooney is only 24 and has plenty of years ahead of him, Lampard has just turned 32, Steven Gerrard is 30, John Terry is 29 and the absent Rio Ferdinand, who would have been captain if he had not been injured, 31.
At age 35, David Beckham's England days look over and Capello, assuming he sees through his contract, has few young stars coming through.
Rooney's form prior to getting injured in a Champions League game against Bayern Munich at the end of March was outstanding, with 34 league and cup goals for Manchester United. But that ankle injury, followed by groin and neck problems, clearly slowed him down and he has not hit the target since.
At the World Cup he was misfiring and looked frustrated and, despite hitting the post in the 1-0 victory over Slovenia, looked nothing like the player he had been all season.
Team captain Gerrard did little right in the 0-0 draw with Algeria, a result and performance which was a contender for England's worst in World Cup history.
Lampard's failure to transmit his Chelsea form to when he plays in an England shirt continued, although he was unlucky not to score against Germany.
Terry led Chelsea to a first league and cup double, but had the captaincy taken off him by Capello after revelations about an affair with the ex-girlfriend of England teammate Wayne Bridge, who then refused to play for the national team.
Terry was one of the defenders at fault for Miroslav Klose's first goal Sunday, badly caught out of position - a fault noted ahead of the game by Germany coach Joachim Loew.
"We managed to expose the England defence. We wanted to get into the penalty area quickly and we did it a couple of times extraordinarily," Loew said.
"We knew that the midfielders - Gerrard and Lampard - always support the forwards and that their midfield would be open. We knew there would be spaces. Our objective was to set Terry up with Klose to force him to come out of the defense. We knew the fullbacks would be very much to the side, and that would create space that we could penetrate."
Loew clearly won the tactical battle with Capello and England is once again going home from the World Cup long before fans expected.