Ruptured Achilles’ heel is the final nail in England’s WC coffin

by Sam Rider

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Beckham, Terry, Cole…injuries and melodramas expose England’s Achilles’ heel

As the Greek myth of the Trojan War goes, it was the heel of the great Achilles – pierced by a poisoned arrow fired by Paris – that killed the apparently invulnerable warrior. Now in England’s World Cup campaign, one that seemed so promising six months ago, it is the stricken heel of David Beckham that has all but killed off the nation’s chances of success in South Africa.

If 2009 had been a perfect year for England and Fabio Capello, 2010 will so far be remembered with anguish and dismay. It has taken less than three months to derail England’s previously impeccable World Cup campaign. For all the invincibility perpetuated by the form of Wayne Rooney, it cannot be disguised that England’s Achilles’ heel has been left exposed by unrelenting fitness set-backs and public crises.

In the qualifying season Capello equipped the team with a raw pace and precision befitting of a world finals favourite. The pieces of the puzzle seemed to be falling into place. England scored more than any other European team in qualifying with a coherent, dynamic set-up that brought the best out of every individual.

The Italian even went so far as to say he knew who his no. 1 would be in goal, presumably David James given he played the majority of the qualies. The same could arguably be said for his thoughts on how the rest of the team would shape up.

Heskey and Rooney, with Gerrard interjecting from an advanced left position seemed to crack the ‘square peg in a round hole’ enigma of the Liverpool captain and bring the best out of Wazza, England’s most devastating weapon. Lampard and Barry developed an effective partnership in the engine room and Ferdinand, Terry and Ashley Cole made up 3/4s of an impenetrable back four. Doubts remained over the right flank but there were plenty of viable options.

Team morale was buoyant and yet the national team had an air of composed assurance instilled by the Italian’s machismo.

Now what a difference a superinjunction makes. The revelations (not like everyone was really that surprised) about Terry’s affairs and unrepentant betrayal of an England team-mate sent shock waves through the camp and stripped him of the armband. Shortly after being cut down by a broken ankle that will jeopardise his fitness for the summer ‘Cashley’ Cole’s popularity took another dramatic plunge after having salvaged respect for impressive displays on the pitch.

Wayne Bridge, the most experienced if not reliable back-up to Cole at left-back, backed out of deputising in the Chelsea man’s absence. No one is convinced about who should start in goal let alone be on the plane. Ferdinand has barely appeared all season due to his vulnerable vertebrae; and now one of the only truly talismanic player in the projected squad has cried off to Finland after rupturing that mythical weak spot on his left heel.

His experience – whether you think he would have played every minute in this summer’s tournament or just made up the numbers on the training pitch – would have been invaluable for the squad in South Africa. He has been through everything on the international stage from baring the expectancy of a nation to baring the burden of defeat; from his role in redemption in 2002 to reliability in 2006 he has embodied England’s pride and passion from that first cap to his 115th.

It must be acknowledged that England’s hopes are not entirely dashed, yet. Players are rediscovering form and fitness at a crucial time and with Rooney in the form of his life anything is possible. He is capable of inspiring the team around him to excel (just look at how his club are doing).

However, England’s vulnerability has been exposed as far more extensive than thought when qualification was secured in Wembley last September. That 23-man squad will be hobbling to South Africa, a World Cup most expected would go furthest in alleviating 44 years of hurt.

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  • Dave

    It would be nice if we had the odd optimistic post regarding Englands chances. We all know they have problems but which teams dont?

    Lets try and be positive going into a tournament for once.

  • Darren

    As much as Beckham is a legend and all that, I believe this is blessing in disguise. The team can concentrate on actually winning the World Cup without the media circus following his every move.

    Besides, on a a pure footballing perspective he doesn’t offer anything to the side what so ever. I’d much rather have James Milner, Ashley Young or even Adam Johnson playing on the wing instead. We have enough players who can take a corner or a free kick.

  • Sam R

    I just think it’s ridiculous how many set backs there have been since everything looked so rosy when we beat Croatia last september. If you look at the way Manchester United progress through a season when everything goes right for them, if you look at how Brazil build up for a World Cup every four years, look at France in 1998, it’s all about momentum. At the turn of the year things start coming together, there is consistency and a coherent plan which generally is rewarded with success and trophies.

    England had the balance, the structure, the unity, but that has all been knocked out of them in three torrid months. Beckham may not have been decisive in South Africa, or even made the squad if he had a bad few games and Joe Cole stepped it up, but it just shows that this trend of bad luck (or bad timing in Terry and Cole’s cases) isn’t going away!

    Ps. Dave – if you look at my post from October, I was more optimistic than i’ve ever been before an international tournament…how things change

  • Darren

    Also read Patrick Currys brilliant ‘why England will win the world cup’ post, You can find the link to the right under the section popular posts.

    I for one have shed to many tears, wasted to many emotions on England to know better. It’s not just about England the football team, it runs much deeper than that, England as a nation are our own worst enemies. We build them up, kick them down, that’s the main reason why we will NEVER win a world cup!

    There’s always some kind of excuse. The idiots at Talk Sport and the BBC will no doubt all be backing us to lift the trophy which will of course be a curse.

    Once we get knocked out because we are not good enough we then have the after math, we didn’t win because football at grass roots level blah blah, its all so predictable!

    If the FA actually spend some money on getting Burton Abbey ready instead of wasting it on a crappy pitch that can’t even host 2 games a week then we might actually be able to produce some quality English coaches not to mention better English players.

    The FA are just one big joke!

  • Dave

    I to wish that the press etc…… would get behind England without saying that we are going to win the world cup.

    We have a chance just as the other 31 teams do but we need to be realistic,on our day we can beat anyone but we have a tendency to self implode in major tournament’s.

    I for one will be kicking every ball and no doubt biting finger nails but I am confident we can do well.

    I think the players need to believe in themselves but not be over confident.

    In Fabio we trust.

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