Alan Pardew: In the final analysis England's campaign was defined by fear

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The Independent Football

I'm desperately disappointed. Disappointed England are out of the World Cup, disappointed that it's 40 years since we won it, disappointed for every fan. And disappointed that we played with fear.

Have no doubt about it, this was a wasted opportunity. We have players of real quality, but we didn't seem to express ourselves. They didn't have a chance to shine. We just didn't open up and that's hard to take. Fear is the biggest enemy of football and, to be honest, we didn't produce a performance throughout the whole tournament without it. I hoped that with Sven Goran Eriksson knowing he was going that, perhaps, the team could have a bit more freedom. But it just didn't happen.

For sure things were stacked against us from the start. All those fears were realised. OK, Wayne Rooney came back earlier than expected, but then Michael Owen got a bad, bad injury and it just showed up the problem of taking only four strikers. It meant that the selection of Theo Walcott was simply wrong. And it came back to haunt us.

It certainly haunted us against Portugal. We were left with Rooney playing in that new position as a lone striker. It had worked against Ecuador and, sometimes, when you put a player in an unfamiliar role it can work the first time you do it. It's the second, third and fourth times that matter. That's when it really shows. Against the Portuguese it didn't work. He's a brilliant player, but it's not for him and it made him more frustrated.

But beyond that the balance of the team was not right. I'd already warned that the wide players needed to get in behind more and it did not happen against Portugal. It meant we were always playing in front of them and, at that level, it makes it even harder, especially against strong defenders.

It also made for a bit of a stale match, although we were the dominant force. Portugal, without Deco, did not want to come out, but it was only when we went down to 10 men that, for us, some of the fear was removed. By then we were not expected to win, so we played with that freedom and the performances improved. Through extra-time I felt England had the cutting edge. If you played that game another eight times we would win the majority. But that's what makes it all the more galling. England went out to a team that was no better than us. It wasn't like against Brazil four years ago.

In saying that it didn't help that we faced a goalkeeper like Ricardo. He was already a hero in Portugal because of his previous exploits in penalty shoot-outs and you could see he carried that massive, positive feeling with him. He was hopping around, looking unbeatable.

Undoubtedly the key penalty was Jamie Carragher's. He must have been prepared to take one as there's no other explanation for that late substitution. But, unfortunately, he had to re-take his and that's very, very hard to do. So, once more, we've fallen at the quarter-finals. With hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, we should have probably played 4-4-2 and stuck with it. That would have meant sacrificing one of either Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard with Peter Crouch partnering Rooney. Perhaps then the team could have been expected to play more positively and with that bit more freedom. We would have given it a go and I just don't feel we can say that of this campaign.

It's not all Sven's fault. I'm not going to blame him. The fear factor was there, but it's not all of his creation. Don't discount the pressure he was under. I know the coaches of Brazil and France and Germany and so on are under huge pressure too but, somehow, with England, and with Sven, it felt that bit greater. He certainly seemed more under the microscope.

I definitely feel the media plays a role in this and that's something that, also, should be reflected upon when it comes to the post-mortems and inquests. It's certainly something that, as a manager, you are acutely aware of. It's a major factor and can play its part.

Steve McClaren will be under no illusion either. He's got hunger in his belly, but you can sense that the media pressure is building for him already. We need to be careful. His first decision will be to appoint a new captain and, to be honest, I'm not surprised that David Beckham has decided to stand down. He's a magnificent player. Ninety per cent of his career has been nothing but success and he's got England out of jail on many occasions. But perhaps it's the right time for someone else to take the armband. It will help create the sense of a new era.

Hopefully that will be one where there is a little less fear - and a little more positivity. But it needs to come from everyone.

Alan Pardew will be writing for 'The Independent' throughout the World Cup. The fee for his column is being donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

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