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Roy Hodgson’s asked about resigning, but England should keep calm and carry on

Jun 19, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 19: England manager Roy Hodgson looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Uruguay and England at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 19, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Getty Images

During what’s sure to be a difficult period of soul-searching, I’d like to offer this open letter to my friends in England:

Dear Friends:

You’re already doing it. Just calm down. It’s just not that bad.

Sincerely,

-rf

What’s this all about? Consider these headlines, all based on England head coach Roy Hodgson’s reaction after today’s match against Italy.

  • The Telegraph: Roy Hodgson vows not to quit despite England World Cup defeats by Uruguay and Italy
  • The Daily Mail: Roy Hodgson won’t quit after England lose to Uruguay to stand on verge of World Cup elimination
  • The Independent: ‘I will not resign,’ says Roy Hodgson after 2-1 loss left England on the brink of exit
  • The Guardian: Roy Hodgson insists he will not resign as England manager after defeat

You get the picture. At some point today, after Luis Suárez’s late goal sent England to a second straight 2-1 loss, Hodgson was asked if he would step down. He said “no,” and with good reason.

England is not one of the most talented nations in the world, yet as implied by the question (and reaction after today’s result), expectations are unreasonably high. Regardless of their group’s depth or the performances of transcendent talents like Andrea Pirlo and Luis Suárez, England fans expect their team to get out of the group. Never mind England only gave up six shots on target over 180 minutes, and forget about the transitional state of a team that will be stronger at Euro 2016 than it was in Brazil. England hadn’t been eliminated in a group stage since 1958, until now.

All of which is a very narrow view of the Three Lions. Having only lost two competitive matches since Cesare Prandelli took over four years ago, Italy is a proven commodity, one that again showed their quality on Saturday in Manaus. And while Uruguay struggled in World Cup qualifying, the team is a 2010 World Cup semifinalist and the reigning South American champions, achievements that speak to La Celeste’s quality in major tournaments.

source: AP

After 75 minutes against Uruguay, England was even, 1-1. A second goal from Luis Suárez left the Three Lions without a point after two matches at the 2014 World Cup. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

What about Hodgson’s team suggests England should necessarily overcome these foes? They’re certainly capable of beating either team, but closes losses shouldn’t be surprising, either. How are Hodgson’s results so unreasonable?

That’s not to say Hodgson is beyond scrutiny, because there are a series of small decisions which may have made the difference. Why is this Steven Gerrard guaranteed a spot? Or, seemingly, Danny Welbeck, for that matter? Why was Adam Lallana dropped when it was unclear whether Wayne Rooney or Raheem Sterling was the player to use wide? And ultimately, why is England probably going home after the opening round?

Ultimately, it all comes down to that last question, one that’s as frustratingly presumptuous as it straight-forward. England can play with Italy, but over a given 90 minutes, a 2-1 loss is a reasonable outcome. Same with Uruguay, especially on a day when Luis Suárez scores on both of his team’s shots on target. If Andrea Barzagli mistimes his lunge, or Joe Hart stays big on Suárez’s late shot, things turn out different. That’s not to say England deserved those results (they don’t), but it highlights the thin margins in Group D.

Ultimately, Hodgson needs to figure out ways for his team to create and prevent chances. His selection influences how those plans play out, but even in that regard, Hodgson has limited options.

So when people see England had five shots on target to Italy’s four, and six shots on target to Uruguay’s two, how can people justify implying he should resign? Hodgson didn’t head the ball off the post in today’s first half, but be did draw up the play that gave Wayne Rooney the opportunity to do so. And while he didn’t create those first half counterattacking chances against Italy, he did select the attackers that put those plays into motion.

Granted, Hodgson could have recognized the limits of his players and put in a different plan. He could have recognized that a player like Rooney was not going to be as efficient as Suárez. Still, in both of his team’s games, Hodgson put his players in a position to win. They just didn’t take advantage of their opportunities.

Hodgson played a part in England’s exit, no doubt, but so did Italy. So did Suárez. So did a tough draw, and so did his attacker’s missed chances.

But should Hodgson fall on the sword because of things beyond his control? In England, that becomes the demand, but it’s one that’s built from unreasonable expectations. If England can keep calm and carry on, this team should be fine going forward.

  1. mazblast - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:09 AM

    English fans want it all the ways possible. They want to win now, yet prepare their younger players for the next go-round. They want all the name players on the team, but also want the most talented guys, the ones who will help them win.

    I think this one sentence in the article sums it up well–“England is not one of the most talented nations in the world, yet as implied by the question (and reaction after today’s result), expectations are unreasonably high.” Perhaps the players would perform a bit better if the fans would stop treating winning it all as the minimum that would make them satisfied.

    • unclemosesgreen - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:57 AM

      They just want what every fan base wants – to win. For me, Hodgson did not come close to putting his best team on the field. I disagree with the assessment of English talent, I think it’s better than it has ever been. There’s something to be said for hiring foreign coaches – they tend to ignore the fan and media expectations and desires better than domestic coaches. Even though Stevie G. is barely hanging on as an influential BPL player, the press and fans had to have him.

      What they needed was 180 minutes of Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley. Some time for Luke Shaw. People always talk about winning now versus preparing players for the future like they’re mutually exclusive propositions. Sometimes the kids are the best option now as well, and I think this was one of those times.

  2. ripjvh1009 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    Lifelong England fan here, and I can tell you that any true fan of England can tell you that there were no illusions as to how far this team would go this year. Anyone with any decent knowledge of Football (soccer) would tell you that England has been doing a long overdue rebuild of the team since that god awful performance in 2010. I would even say that 2006 was also lackluster as well.

    Right now we’re in transition and bringing up younger talent to get international experience is very important. Also, as mentioned in this article, despite the two losses I’ve seen a far better England squad this time around, especially when compared to the garbage we trotted out on the pitch 4 years ago.

    This English fan wants to see this team built properly from the ground up and to see improvement. As before, despite the match results I’m ok with losing to two top teams, especially with how competitive we’ve been in these two games. Will this group get better as time passes, and will things get figured out, who knows? But it’s a much better feeling than 4 years ago.

    • braxtonrob - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:04 PM

      @rip, I agree completely. 2010 was embarrassing from the get-go, (although other teams suffered similar performances), and in 2014, given two consecutive losses, I can’t think of a team that represented itself better (with similar results) in any World Cup past. England, to me, is a team that is VERY dangerous to win it all, when they put it altogether. It probably wasn’t destined to be this year anyhow, but they have enough talent and passion to put it all together in any 4 years time. It’s simply been a longer wait than expected. They have good managers but they’ll need to find the GREAT one who makes that happen. The manager is piece #1, especially in English football.
      (Just my foreign opinion.)

  3. gpry - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:14 AM

    If England stay the course with these youngsters they will be very competitive in the next Euro and WC. This was/is a transitional phase with a couple of unlucky results. They deserved to have 2 points at this stage, but do not, such are the breaks

  4. nottinghamforest12 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    What value does Hodgson bring by keeping him around? He plays a very traditional, dull brand of English football. The game evolves.

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