The best thing that can be said about England's result last night is it leaves qualification in their own hands: beat Slovenia next week and they're through. But we're scrabbling for plus points.
Frankly it's time for Fabio Capello to earn the £5m a year he's on, or whatever the FA is paying him. There couldn't be a bigger task ahead of him and it's down to him to find a solution to spark England to life.
The players didn't become bad in two games. But they're lacking confidence, that's blindingly obvious. It doesn't help that the fans were booing. Sure, I absolutely accept they were booing a bad, bad performance. But fans can make a difference and positivity, not boos, could help.
I understand Wayne Rooney's frustration at being booed. It's a bad feeling to get that from your own supporters. Fabio, time to earn your corn and fix things.
The pressure is intense and he needs to find a way to alleviate it.
The game was disappointing because of England's failure to keep the ball. In possession they just weren't confident, not good enough and it's hard to pinpoint why. A lack of confidence and the marginalisation of Stevie Gerrard are both possibilities.
Capello replacing Robert Green with David James was an obvious move. I expected that, as I wrote the other day, and I thought James should have played from the start of the tournament and he was comfortable last night.
The other change was bringing in Gareth Barry, which again we'd expected, but that addition to the starting XI meant a redeployment of Gerrard, and Capello chose to put him on the left, and that, in my view, was a mistake.
Keeping Gerrard central, with a licence to push forward is the key to getting the best from him, and to increasing the chances of getting Rooney more involved.
We all accept Wayne is our best player, when at his best, but failing to keep possession and failing to get Rooney involved are not going to help. England really should have done more.
Some setbacks for the bigger nations aren't necessarily bad for the tournament. Defeats for Spain, France and Germany in the past few days mean that those nations will really have their mettle tested. And with more at stake as advancements or exits loom, we can expect teams to reveal their true identities.
I tried the Jabulani... and I love it
I got a call from the Independent sports desk the other day saying: "Right then, Andy, so what about this Jabulani? How about actually testing it for us?"
Fine, I thought. After all the hot air and the moaning from players and coaches, it was time I actually got my hands on one. A ball was duly delivered to my room yesterday and my immediate thoughts were: First, blimey, I cannot recall a weirder ball in all my time in football. Second, this thing is about as far from leather as I can imagine; it has no leather or pretend leather component at all. Third: how I wish I were a player in this World Cup, using this ball, because believe me, as a striker, this thing flies like you wouldn't believe and I'd be popping shots from 35 and 40 yards at every opportunity.
What the ball reminds me of is one of those 99p efforts you'd buy as a kid, an air ball full of nothing. You tap and it goes a mile. The Jabulani feels so light it's amazing, although I have to stress "feels" light because actually it's no lighter than some predecessors, it's just rounder and more aerodynamic, and hence moves quicker, especially when you're at altitude.
Immediately then, I could appreciate what some of the players have been talking about, because it is different. Then again, some players have had it for a good six months or more, others could have had it but didn't for their own reasons (England), and even England have had it every day since mid-May, so it's about time they put a sock in it.
It's a ball, and it really zips through the air. Kick it and it's like it has been caught by the wind. The bounce is higher, too.
But as a striker, I would really love it, and if you look and listen carefully, you'll see other attacking players appreciate it. Even Wayne Rooney the other day said: "I can see why 'keepers won't like it but..."
The operative word was "but" because Rooney knows he can unleash shots from distance, and you'll notice that a lot of players are doing just that.
As someone who has lived and breathed football since I could walk, I remember virtually every ball in every World Cup. In 1978 it was the Tango (officially the Tango Durlast) and by 1982 that became the Tango España. Both those balls were actually made of leather! In fact the España was the last real leather World Cup ball.
Then in 1986 it was the Azteca, and that was fully synthetic, and by USA 1994 we had the Questra, by which time is was already routine that a new ball would get inevitable criticism.
Goalkeepers always complain about new balls, always. They did in 1994 and then there was some great football and the complaints were forgotten. Until the next ball.
One last thing on the Jabulani; it's got rivet-like patches to make it easier to hold. Apparently that came about after goalkeeper input.Reuse content