England’s failure to bring the World Cup “home” from Germany would never be accepted by the media that have built their country up to be the best in the World at times. Anything less than that big lump of gold wouldn’t be enough. To lose also means someone needs to be blamed. In our view, England lost for a number of reasons, but blaming any of the penalty takers for missing a penalty shouldn’t even be considered until you have looked at the previous 120 minutes of play.
We aren’t an England site, so it’s not our place to discuss the issue in any great detail, but one thing is important to remember – the man in charge of the team is the man who makes the decisions. Sven Goran Eriksson has not exactly been loved by the press, although they’ve never liked any England manager really. They’ll not like the next one either. Sven deserved to get criticised for what happened to England, but what his staff did this week was try to deflect the blame elsewhere.
Quotes were flying from Tord Grip, Sven’s erm assistant (?) and also the fitness coach. The despicable and long-boycotted Sun carried a headline “Bottler” and a picture of Jamie Carragher as an addition to quotes from the pair. The Liverpool Way fanzine have pointed out that both Carra’s and Steven Gerrard’s fathers were involved in something of a heated discussion with a particular Sun reporter in Germany over the weekend, on topics like Hillsborough. Is it just a coincidence that this row unfolded just a couple of days before this reporter wrote this story?
Jamie himself showed what a lot of Liverpool fans think about their country compared to their club. Club first. How big a gap there is between club and country varies from one fan to the next, but the majority of supporters would choose Liverpool winning their 19th league title to be more important than their country winning the World Cup. “I am not finishing the season disappointed. I can look back on winning the Super Cup and the FA Cup with Liverpool and that means I will always look back on 2005/06 as a great season for Liverpool and myself, even if things didn’t quite work out for England,” said the Anfield legend.
Carra says he’s not going to let it get to him – he’d have preferred things to have been different, but it’s not the end of the world: “What happened in the shoot-out is one of those things that happens in football and you just have to get on with it. Of course I wish my penalty had gone in and I wish Stevie’s and Frank’s had and I wish England were still in the tournament. But it didn’t turn out like that so you just have to accept it and move on.”
As Carra points out, the game should have been dealt with before it got to penalties: “The fact is we didn’t go out because we lost on penalties. We went out because we didn’t do enough to win the game during the 90 minutes. Even when we had 11 men we hadn’t taken the lead and when it comes down to penalties anything can happen.”
The England team’s experts also said Carra should have been able to put his penalty away given he scored one in the Istanbul final. He didn’t of course, he didn’t take one. Carra’s record as part of Reds teams involved in shoot-outs can’t be any better, whether he’s taken any of the pens or not: “I’ve never been in a Liverpool team that’s lost a shoot out. So hopefully that record will continue if we’re ever in another one.”
If the attitude coming out of the departing England set-up were to continue then Liverpool fans would demand their England players just retire from international football. However a new set-up is now about to start putting its own identity on things, and they need a new captain. Carra nominates team-mate and club captain Steven Gerrard: “The captain at international level has to be someone who is one of the first names on the team-sheet, someone who has the respect of the other players and someone who has good leadership qualities. Stevie and John Terry have got all that so it’s going to be a really difficult decision. But, from my own point of view, having played under Stevie at Liverpool and seen how well he captains the side I’d like it to be him.”
Stevie is a player who was extremely important in his last two major finals for the club: “When you look back at the way he played in Cardiff in the FA Cup final and in Istanbul in the Champions League final you’d have to say there can’t be too many players around who are more inspirational than him,” said Carra.
The comments about Carra from the fitness coach seemed to have struck a nerve with Peter Crouch too. Himself turning into an Anfield legend, he seemed to be indirectly attacking the fitness coach who’d tried to pin all the blame on Carra. He said England were basically not fit enough to perform for the whole game: “I honestly felt exhaustion set in at the end against Portugal. We’d played quite a lot of the game with 10 men and I think we took the penalties in a tired way. Everyone worked so hard and I genuinely feel everyone had given everything by the time we had to take the penalties. That definitely showed in the penalties we had to take.”
Crouch has seen fitness training at arguably its best since he arrived at Anfield, looking at the improvement in Robbie Fowler’s general fitness is a good way of pointing that out. Crouch said that a failure to practice penalties wasn’t a factor in the defeat: “We have come in for criticism in the past for not practising penalties but I can assure you, we had been practising them all the time after going to Germany in early June – and before that. They had been going well in practice – but we were fresh then. We were in an empty stadium as well which is a different ball game to Saturday.”
Maybe if Eriksson had taken the decision he clearly needed to take – to drop Lampard – he’d have found room for Crouch and Rooney to play together. Rooney would have got the chance to be creative, Crouch would have got someone to lay the ball off to, Rooney wouldn’t have been so worked up.
There are a lot of people you can blame, but don’t blame Carra. And don’t buy the Sun, for any reason, ever.