• Monday, September 22, 2014

Third Eye

A Roy-al mistake

Osama Rahman

When Sabri Lamouchi dropped talismanic forward Didier Drogba from the first team squad in their opening World Cup match, Ivory Coast supporters were dubious. Repeating the decision against Columbia, despite the star forward's pivotal role in the 2-1 win over Japan, Kenshi knew he was risking an unforgiving backlash. However, Lamouchi had a point; the 34-year old Didier Drogba, already suffering from a thigh strain, may not have had the legs to deal with a fresh and ever pacey Colombia attack. Ivory Coast went down 2-1, but Lamouchi knew even in defeat that he had redeemed himself with the last attack of the game when Drogba failed to produce the speed to pounce on a long ball before Columbia's stopper Ospina. Unfortunately, his English counter-part, Roy Hodgson found no such solace.
Three days before England's do-or-die clash against Uruguay, the England manager decided to stoke the flames, calling on Luis Suarez to prove himself as a world class player. In hindsight, it was a calculated mistake. Despite a stellar season, the Uruguayan forward barely had time to recover from a knee surgery four weeks prior to the game. However, perhaps Hodgson's words had a curing effect, because Suarez was in the first team and started the game. Furthermore, he went on to score both of Uruguay's goals before being replaced. While Suarez had proven his pedigree to Hodgson, Hodgson too proved that he wasn't big enough to handle the English team.
Hodgson, very early on, had given to the temptation of the big name players. His first team squad, consisted of the three lions, made up by a waning Wayne Rooney, the ageing Frank Lampard and of course Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard. The most glaring weakness remained Gerrard's constant defensive lapses. While Jordan Henderson was constant presence throughout the field against Uruguay, Gerrard will simply be remembered for defensive errors, hopeful efforts and wayward passes. Rooney too, despite his assists and a goal, will more fondly be remembered for mis-hitting his corner against Italy.
Hodgson's plan of a high-defensive line was spot on with both Edinson Cavani and Suarez prone to drifting in the offside position. Gary Cahill and Daniel Sturridge were England's bright spots while the rest were what an English player is nowadays expected to be; above average and no more. Sadly, it wasn't as if the Uruguayans were dominant. In fact, the winning goal was nodded on, laid beautifully on a plate, for Suarez by none other than Steven Gerrard. It was only when Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley were brought on that England really looked like threatening. The Rooney tap-in courtesy of a great move by Sturridge and ball by Johnson had many believing that England still had a fighting chance but of course they didn't. Rooney's first and only World Cup goal could have been scored by a blind-folded Fernando Torres.
Hodgson had options. He had Nathan Dyer, Leon Osman and even Ravel Morrison to choose from. However, unlike Lamouchi, Hodgson gambled on big names and big reputations and not big players. The Golden Generation had rusted, unfortunately Hodgson didn't have the power nor the say to see it. And instead of taming the beast, his strategy was to wake it. 2 goals followed.

Published: 12:00 am Saturday, June 21, 2014

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