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Same result, different tournament as England crash out of World Cup 2014


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Given the tough group in which England were enlisted into, few expected anything other than progression beyond that as a mark of relative achievement. Expectation then, were kept sensibly low. That England will fly home tomorrow having failed to jump the qualifying distance shows just how poor they were during a torrid World Cup week.

After some initial encouragement against Italy, England's performance took a dramatic downturn come the arrival of Uruguay. A shell shocked England were out before they could even line-up against Costa Rica, a fixture looked upon previously as the banker that would confirm their place in the second round. Ultimately, it amounted to nothing more than a glorified friendly. England were happy to banish any fears of a first pointless group stage exit for twenty years, with Costa Rica content to play out the draw that would confirm them as surely the most unlikely group winners of this World Cup and many before it. 

Picking apart England's campaign, there are countless areas which need addressing if they wish to show signs of progression come the beginning of Euro qualifications in September. Wayne Rooney has come under some considerable fire during this tournament after a series of laboured performances in the number 10 role. His position in the team must surely now be called into question. Rooney is not, and never will be, David Silva. By far his strongest position is the traditional number 9 role. He must either be given that position as head of a 4-3-3, or consigned to the bench to battle Daniel Sturridge for it. 

Frank Lampard's token starting berth versus Costa Rica surely came more as one final hurrah than any need for Hodgson to assess his place in future squads. Steven Gerrard, for years an England stalwart, may not be too close behind him. He has yet to confirm his intentions going into Euro 2016, but his continued involvement in and around a squad hoping to further embrace youth could be a vital tool for Hodgson to utilise if and when he requires it. Certainly, Gerrard's performances have left much to be desired during this tournament, and its clear his position as first name on the team sheet is now under serious threat.

Despite England's squad being exposed as woefully inadequate to even record a victory at this summer's tournament, the performances were so poor that Roy Hodgson must shoulder a considerable amount of blame for failing to even challenge for a top two spot. His failure to organise a defence that at times looked all at sea was a considerable factor in England's defeats to both Italy and Uruguay. Top of Hodgson's to do list must surely be to mould potential youngsters such as Stones, Chambers and Shaw into a more solid base which England can begin their attack from.

Hodgson's tactics have occasionally been exposed as inept when placed in high pressure jobs before. His short stint as Liverpool coach ended sourly after he failed to rouse a top eight squad to even the top half. Hodgson's decision to play Rooney as the number 10 meant he could only fill his midfield with two central players. For all Gerrard and Henderson's endeavours, we were left overrun in central areas by teams who flooded their midfields with technically superior players such as Pirlo and Verrati. Again here then, Hodgson has been found wanting, a spectator to the ever evolving footballing blueprint to success. He was urged by many preceding the tournament to embrace the way of Rodgers at Liverpool and Martinez at Everton. A fast, aggressive, gung ho attitude to football, both in attack and defence. 

England were left floundering in the age of tiki-taka. Now that has passed the football world by, the tireless counter attacking style now championed by Real Madrid, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid is the path to success. Given the FA has already stepped in to confirm his retention going into Euro 2016 qualification, Hodgson must show genuine steps to break from his prehistoric methods in order to build an squad capable of challenging for major honours.

To do that he needs to increase his trust of younger players to adapt to new methods of play, in much the same way he must adapt. Gerrard, Lampard and co have tried and failed to master success at major tournaments with much superior tools at hand. The selection of a group of young, enthusiastic players awash with flair, agility and skill may seem like a pipe dream a present. We have neither the quality nor quantity of talent available. But England must view this as a watershed moment. For too long they have continued to tread water, failing to learn from previous failings at major tournaments. 

The FA must also take a look across the continent and finally devise a method increasing English participation in the Premier League, as well as improving coaching at all levels to concentrate more on performance than result. To end what is now almost half a century of hurt, Hodgson must convert the success of Liverpool, Everton and Southampton to the international stage. But to do so, he must shed the shackles of traditional English football philosophy that has done nothing but damage our progression as a footballing nation since 1966.

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