We have to face up to it eventually...England are out. And on penalties, again. Luckily, our guest pundit for the summer Paul Sinha has been brave enough to examine the way England exited the tournament - here's what the comedian, quiz expert and football fan had to say...
In many ways I shouldn’t be upset. Realistically a quarter-final spot was always likely to be the limit of England’s achievements here, and it would be very hard to disagree that England would look slightly out of place with Germany, Spain and Portugal. The win against Sweden and the rather flukey win against Ukraine were genuinely thrilling and several players ended this tournament with their reputations enhanced. There is however a nagging sense of what might have been for this was not a vintage Italian performance. Yes, the ageing Pirlo was magnificent, but at no stage did this seem like one of Italy’s great sides.
England actually enjoyed plenty of possession. Except that enjoyed is not the word. What they lacked was any idea as to how to hold on to it. Amidst all the talk of bulldog spirit, of a more relaxed, united squad, of a manager who enjoys an excellent relationship with the players, little attention was paid to how limited England’s midfield was. Gerrard had his best major tournament, but alongside him was a hopelessly ineffective trio. Parker worked hard but little else, whereas Milner and Young failed to convince, the latter being England’s most disappointing player by a country mile. And upfront we always seemed toothless. Welbeck will always have the memory of his wonder goal, and his work rate was excellent. But Rooney was, again, an enigma, a shadow of the fearless warrior who exploded into international football at Euro 2004, the last major tournament where this so called “white Pele” last made an impact.
Hodgson’s repeated insistence that he was match fit seemed hollow indeed. “White Pele.” In those words seems part of the problem. In two months the whole Premier League circus will start up again and the hype machine will be ratcheted up to 11, as pundits will breathlessly explain how these same players who we saw exposed at the highest level are in fact amongst the best in the world. There was stuff to admire from England this year; the greater squad unity, the last gasp heroics of the back five, the first three results, but if England have aspirations to compete with the football that has enabled Spain, Portugal and Germany to reach the semi-finals, then they need to set their ambitions higher. Tactical flexibility, picking players in form, having wingers with pace who can cross, utilising players’ strengths but most of all ignoring the hype and being honest and critical when results fall short – if Hodgson can add these qualities then who knows. In the meantime, thanks for Sweden that was great fun.
Thanks to Paul for giving us his view on the end to England's European adventure - take a look at his website if you want to hear more from him or to find out about his latest tour dates.