England were left to rue their inaccuracy on penalties as they suffered a 4-2 penalty defeat to Italy after 120 goalless minutes in Kiev. Statistics never tell the full story but with a possession of 34%, joint with the damage Greece inflicted on Germany, and an average of 2.75 shots on target a game it is easy to see why England failed to trouble many teams.
That it took a penalty shoot-out to finally finish England off was indicative of some profligate finishing from Italy and the dogged determination of the England players. Sadly this seems the only trait that English players can excel at in international competition, and bravery and commitment are no longer enough to win a major tournament.
Roy Hodgson has come in and in the space of just ten training sessions done all that he can; make England harder to beat. Hodgson can do little about the scarcity of players brave enough to demand possession of the ball and was denied the presence of one who can, Jack Wilshire, through injury. But to suggest that Wilshire in midfield would have seen us dominating other teams in possession stakes is wildly optimistic and glosses over the deeper issues at hand.
The £750 million invested on Wembley Stadium still has a long way to go before it repays its outlay and the FA must be wishing that more of that money was invested in youth coaching. Other than Jack Wilshire there is a dearth of ball friendly midfielders in England set-ups and the FA are now several years behind other nations in their development programmes.
Germany completely overhauled their youth development eight years ago under Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Low, with the tacit approval of the Bundesliga, and their crop of midfielders at Euro 2012 reflects their philosophy. Until the Premier League agrees to a reduction of power and influence in England, the FA and national set-up will continue to struggle. There needs to be a readdress towards the FA and the national side, but with the rampant financial success of the Premier League this looks increasingly unlikely.
England could quite easily have lost all four of their games at Euro 2012 and only dictated the majority of the play in one of them, against Sweden. There was no goal-line injustice or red card to rage against or hide behind this tournament. England were given a football lesson by the Italians and a revaluation of how England approach football will need to start soon. Past tournaments have provided the nation with a scapegoat or a reason to put off any major change. England’s meek exit this year may finally see an overhaul of a nation still clinging to 1966 as they finally move on.