By Paul O'Donnell
Euro 2008 Qualifying
You'd think the sky really has fallen to hear all the shouts and wailing over England's dour performance and 2-0 loss to Croatia. Unfortunately for Paul Robinson, the Lions #1 and Tottenham's fine keeper, he's taking more than his share of the blame for the mini-disaster.
Yes, he did get caught in no man's land off his line and a superbly executed lob ensured he paid the maximum price. However, you have to wonder where the pressure on the ball was since McLaren had them in a five man midfield you'd expect to see a close challenge to frustrate the attempt. Despite that, the reality is the ball banged around like a pin ball that set up the lob. In that situation, truthfully, you have to say there really wasn't any single player that you could “blame” for that one other than Robinson. Even at that the lob had to be perfectly placed and it was.
England will be fine and will qualify. After all, they still are tied for the top spot in the group. Its not like they've stumbled badly early such as newly crowned World Champion Italy who will struggle mightily to get back in it.
You have to keep in mind that this England team was really their second best and thats true only if you happen to agree with McLaren's selections (I don't). Plus, they were without Owen, Haergraves and Joe Cole as well as Andy Johnson having to withdraw due to a knock just a week before these two qualifiers.
The selections McLaren made to fill-in are another matter. Frankly, there must be some fringe issue with him and Bolton's Nolan that keeps him in the stands watching instead of on the pitch for England.
Perhaps even more significant was his choice of tactical alignment with only three in the back line (if there were two centerbacks would that lob from distance have been available or not?). As I said above what happened to the five man midfield that allowed that effort in the first place?
With the criticism and questions whirling around the keeper the question is, is Paul Robinson the main guy for England? From where I sit the answer is, there should be no question in the first place. Yes, he is the man despite what happened in this match.
You have to see it for yourself but the second goal was truly a one-of-a-kind nightmare for Robinson. The ball was slid back with nice soft pace for him to pound down the pitch. There was no pressure from a Croatian front-runner. Just as Robinson was about to strike the ball (he was into his stroke when this happened if you can believe that; its true, like I said you have to see it) it hit a divot in the pitch and popped up just high enough that Robinson's follow thru missed the ball completely and it rolled softly across the line. It was a miracle goal. Nothing more, nothing less.
And it surely wasn't Robinson's fault. It just happened. But the crazies in England are on a rampage for his head as if it was a blunder or that Queen forbid, he did it on purpose if you can believe such nonsense.
One thing for sure, you know the soccer media in England are really scratching around in the muck looking for a story when they have to try to crucify this guy because of it. Now their blaming McLaren for NOT putting Beckham back in the side. For them, that offers a never empty pit of stories that they can focus on.
The real culprit here, so far, has been Rooney's failure and his hurting the team with his attitude which is truly dour.
It might be hard to accept but the truth is Rooney has not scored for England since Euro 2004. That competition made him. His performance was spectacular and when it was over he was pursued by all the big clubs in Europe; Barca, Real Madrid among them. But it was SAF that swooped in and snatched him from Everton (I surely hope this transfer is on the “bung” list).
Lets not forget folks, it was that young man and his frustration/attitude that led to his dismissal and England's failure in the World Cup. Everyone in the world knew, as did he, that his performance would determine whether England succeeded or not.
Rooney didn't, and England was bounced out. Same storyline today; Rooney still has not scored a goal for his country since Euro 2004 and looking for any other player to lay it on is simply nonsense. He IS the man for England because there is no Owen, no Cole and yes, no Beckham. And lately it also has been no Rooney.
Actually, he's proving he's still got some maturing to do. Look no further for someone to put the blame on at this point. Doing so misses the point completely and could have a poisonous affect on the rest of the team too.
Trying to blame Robinson or McLaren reminds me of a bumper sticker; _ _ _ _ happens!
Get over it!