All teams go to World Cup’s with hope in their hearts, many return disappointed but some campaigns start with such belief and unravel so shockingly they become truly painful here are the 5 worst ever World Cup campaigns as conducted by 5 nations that set out expecting glory and quickly returned home with tails firmly between their legs…
5. England (2010)
With time running out on the ‘golden generation’ the English FA decided to bet the farm and sign up the biggest name manager they could find and hired Fabio Capello. In qualifying he worked wonders as England stormed through to the World Cup Finals with a brand of attacking football rarely seen by Three Lions fans.
The draw saw England avoid the big guns but this headline from the nation’s ever tactful red-top smacked of arrogance and as the tournament grew near things started to go wrong.
Firstly David Beckham ruptured his Achilles and was forced to call time on his bid to play a fourth World Cup, then Capello had to strip John Terry of the captaincy after it was revealed JT The Fearless Leader was also sleeping with team-mate Wayne Bridge’s wife. Then Capello himself made a strange error of judgement when in conjunction with a betting company he set up ‘The Capello Index’ where it was planned he would post online ratings on player’s performance (including his own) during the World Cup, unsurprisingly the idea was quickly dropped. Finally having spent 2 years building his squad Capello made a string of u-turns dropping qualifying hero Theo Walcott after a poor run of form and at the eleventh hour asking back from retirement Ledley King, Jamie Carragher & Paul Scholes although Scholes ultimately declined. Finally key midfielder Gareth Barry was injured at the end of the Premier League season but Capello decided to gamble on his fitness and include him in his 23.
England still arrived in South Africa in buoyant mood, but once installed at their HQ in Rustenberg things quickly started to unravel. It started with new skipper Rio Ferdinand picking up a tournament ending injury in the first training session, then Capello dithered over who to play in-goal and opted for Rob Green only an hour before England’s tournament opener against the USA.
But England started brightly and Steven Gerrard’s 4th minute goal suggested it might all be fine, until Green fumbled a speculative Clint Dempsey shot into his own net and the Americans went in at half time level. Ferdinand’s replacement Ledley King then hobbled off injured-finishing his tournament after just 45 minutes and although England pushed for a winner the US held out for a draw. If England had lacked ingenuity in the US game they looked bereft of ideas against Algeria. England produced 90 flat listless minutes of football and rarely tested the Algerian defence whilst Plan C centre-back Jamie Carragher laboured at the other end and England went off to a chorus of boos and a nil nil draw.
With everything going wrong and Rustenberg rechristened ‘Camp Capello’ England needed to unite and get their fans and the media all pulling in the same direction- so naturally they sent Terry out to do the next press conference. The deposed skipper talked about need for the camp to loosen up and helpfully suggested Capello recall his Chelsea teammate Joe Cole for the do or die clash with Slovenia.
Capello did allow the team a quick pint but Terry’s supposed revolution was quickly downgraded to a 1 beer Putsch and Cole remained on the bench. England finally showed some signs of life against Slovenia when James Milner and Jermain Defoe combined for a fine early goal. But England missed a host of chances to double their advantage and needed Terry to put his head in harm’s way to see out the win. England would now face Germany in the last 16.
By now Terry was playing alongside his plan D centre-back partner Matthew Upson. And 20 minutes in Terry & Upson stood like statues and watched a barely mobile Miroslav Klose nick in behind them to give Germany the early lead and it was quickly 2-0 when Lukas Podolski rampaged in from the left flank. Upson made amends by firing England back into it on 37 minutes and moments later came the decisive moment of England’s campaign, Defoe flicked and Lampard smashed home a volley for 2-2 but the referee ruled it out on the grounds the ball didn’t cross the line, replays showed it was at least a foot over the line but the decision stood.
England came out for the second half in panic mode, throwing players forward recklessly with Barry supposedly the backstop. On 67 minutes Mesut Ozil left Barry for dead played in Thomas Muller who fired home for 3-1 when he added a fourth minutes later England were out.
The English public’s love affair with the ‘Golden Generation’ broke up for good that day in Bloemfontein and as yet the national team hasn’t regained the trust of an increasingly cynical public, no pressure this summer Gareth!
Next time: Spain come unstuck in Brazil…