Having been handed a very unlikely life-line by Isreal at the weekend, all England had to do was draw (at home) with Croatia. Just a draw.
McClaren decided to drop Paul Robinson because, as far as we the public could see, he had been unreliable… so Scott Carson started in goal. David James, with years of experience under his belt and having a great season between the sticks for Portsmouth (ignore the Reading game), was the second choice. Irony, as we know, is a fickle mistress, and thus Croatia’s first goal was caused by Carson’s schoolboy error (apologies to any schoolboys reading this).
By the time the second Croatia goal went in, I was at the stage of not being able to decide whether the drama unfolding was comic or tragic. By half-time I had the awful feeling that I wanted a third Croatia goal so that McClaren’s misery could be absolutely, gloriously complete. England were utterly rubbish in the first half. While Croatia looked well-organised and dangerous on the break, England were a shambles.
Croatia obviously had better studs on their boots as they seemed to manage to keep their footing while England slid around like Oliver Reed appearing in ‘Magic Moments from the Keystone Cops on Ice’ (while pissed). And who decided it was a good idea to let our American friends pound the pitch wearing body armour in a game that’s based on diving headlong across the turf… in Autumn, when it’s wet and there isn’t much sunlight? Wembley Stadium, the pride of England, sported a Sunday league-style surface.
As the seconds ticked away, following England’s two goals and Croatia’s third (in the words of the Incubus song “you should be careful what you wish for”) it was pointed out that we could still qualify if Andorra pulled a goal back against Russia. Andorra has a population of about 72,000 but Andorran’s are a minority in their own country (more than 67% of inhabitants are of other nationalities)… you get the point, it wasn’t going to happen.
The BBC web site reports that Steve McClaren has insisted he will not step down. Well, if he doesn’t do us all a favour I hope the FA do, preferably tomorrow.
So that’s it, no UK teams in Euro 2008. Northern Ireland got very near and should be very proud – “something to build on” would be an understatement. Scotland (I’m proud to be half-Scottish) got very near too and did far better than was expected – just falling at the last hurdle, but against world champions Italy there is nothing to be ashamed of. England on the other hand… I’ll use Ports’ word… “pathetic”.