The George Cohen Column: Eriksson must take blame for setting Rooney a futile and frustrating task

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The Independent Online

What a huge, huge disappointment! In one way, yes, it was quite heroic how England held out Portugal for 120 minutes in their quarter-final in Gelsenkirchen yesterday, especially when they were down to 10 men for virtually half of that period.

Now that we have gone out of the tournament on penalties, though, I can't agree with those who might contrive to say that England were unlucky not to reach the semi-finals or that, ultimately, Sven Goran Eriksson really didn't do too badly on his last assignment as coach to the national side.

In the cold light of day, we were never going to win yesterday unless the tie went to penalties and we did it from the spot. We never really looked like putting the ball in the net from open play and, let's face it, we were playing against a very average Portuguese side who had no one to put the ball away either. In the final analysis, we had a big chance to get into a World Cup semi-final and we didn't take it.

I'm sorry, but in the end this guy Eriksson was the biggest culprit. He had no team tactics at all, as far as I'm concerned, and I've been saying that for a very, very long time. You have to say that the strategy yesterday was absurd, absolutely absurd.

To have Wayne Rooney playing up front on his own again was ridiculous. The long passes we pumped up there time and time again were to no avail whatsoever.

The rest of the team could never, ever, have got the support to him from such a long way away, when we were hitting the ball from 50, 60 yards. Our central midfield players, who were supposed to support him, never had a chance of getting near him in time. It really was the most pointless formation. If ever there was an occasion on which Peter Crouch should have been playing with Rooney then that was it, because Portugal were not a great side.

Without Deco and Costinha prompting, they didn't have anybody up front who could score. You have to say that we didn't either, because we never got near enough to threaten Portugal seriously - apart from one or two speculative shots. I cannot believe that Eriksson did not learn a lesson that was so blindingly obvious from the previous game: that Rooney could not run the forward line totally on his own.

He was getting more and more frustrated. He was getting the worst possible service. He was not getting any support. And, as a consequence, we weren't able to take the game to Portugal. I'm sure that if Crouch had been with him we would have done quite well yesterday. Crouch did well when he came on, but he had the same problem as Rooney: insufficient support.

I'm not sure what to make of the sending off. I think it was very debatable. If Rooney did deliberately stand on Ricardo Carvalho, particularly in the area where he did, then he deserved to go off. That kind of thing is a criminal offence in football if you do it on purpose. But I don't know whether or not the intent was there.

We were more positive after Rooney was sent off, but that was because we had to be. We had to keep the ball for longer. But, at the same time, you have to get the ball forward to score and we didn't get the ball to Crouch in the areas where he is dangerous.

We didn't get the crosses in. We just didn't have the extra man over. Aaron Lennon ended up having to do more work defensively than going forward on the wing.

I don't know what happened to the captain David Beckham, but once again, before he limped off the pitch, he wasn't making a contribution. I don't want to stick pins in the guy but, quite frankly, even before Rooney was sent off we were out there playing with 10 men.

I must say that Owen Hargreaves did extremely well. But then he had to do extremely well. He did a lot of sweeping up. He got forward. He did a lot of good tackling. I thought he was one of the successes for us.

It was a shame, when it came to penalties, that Michael Owen wasn't there to take one, or Rooney, or Beckham. We lost three of our main penalty takers. Frank Lampard looks an out-of-form player and his penalty was an out-of-form penalty kick. He didn't strike it very well. He didn't look confident going up to the ball. He looked apprehensive. I thought the goalkeeper read him all the way.

I thought Lampard and Steven Gerrard were both very disappointing yesterday. They did not play to their world-class billing. Sadly, the same has to be said of the whole England team in this disappointing World Cup campaign.

George Cohen, the 1966 England World Cup winner, was talking to Simon Turnbull

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