England's missing men ensured creativity was absent, insists Neville

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The Independent Football

The fallout from England's defeat to Spain on Wednesday is set to include another tour of the country by Steve McClaren to meet up with his players and staff to discuss the loss before the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier with Israel on 24 March. The England coaches hope it will allow the squad to meet afresh when they join up next month.

It is a familiar ploy of McClaren's, he had two "regional" meetings for players between the Croatia defeat and the Netherlands friendly in November to attempt to put the gloom of the game to bed. The meetings are intended to be open and frank and they will have to include some telling answers if McClaren is to come up with a solution before the matches against Israel and then Andorra on 28 March.

Gary Neville said after the defeat to Spain that the team did not have a "God-given right to qualify for finals" but that qualification remained in their own hands. He was one of many from the England set-up on Wednesday night stressing the importance of those eight players who were missing from the team through injury.

"What happened doesn't affect the Israel game at all," he said. "It will still be a tough game and, had we put in the best performance ever and won, next month was always going to be a completely different encounter. It will be tough going over there, a completely different atmosphere for a European Championship qualifier. This game was important, we wanted to put on a good display in front of 60,000 of our own fans, but it really matters next month."

Israel drew at home to Ukraine on Wednesday night with Chelsea's 17-year-old striker Ben Sahar making his senior debut. England were not the only side in Group E experimenting but it was the absence of Wayne Rooney that Neville identified as critical.

"Those who are missing are all important players, particularly Wayne because of his creativity," he said. "The final third, the attacking third, was probably our most disappointing part. They've created one chance with Morientes. It was just a great goal, but while we didn't concede too many chances, that disappointment was in the final third. The forwards are not only responsible for that, but all parts of the team."

Steven Gerrard, captain for the night, was substituted at half-time in a pre-arranged deal between McClaren and Liverpool and he said he understood the frustrations of fans who booed England off. "Of course, they've paid their money and came here wanting to see goals," he said. "They wanted us to come and wipe the Spanish away, but this was a difficult test for us. So it was frustrating from the fans' point of view.

"What concerned me was that I think we lacked a bit of quality or cutting edge in the final third. We started the game brightly enough, but we never got that wonder cross in or that killer ball, just that bit of quality in the final third to score."

Jonathan Woodgate, who denied that he had yet formalised a permanent deal from Real Madrid to Middlesbrough, said: "I could do a lot better on the goal, which is not good enough from my point of view because I set myself high standards."

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