This may be Africa's first FIFA World Cup™ but for the press in England it was the same old story as they picked over the bones of their national team's crushing 4-1 defeat by Germany in Bloemfontein. "Old failings put England back on road to nowhere," declared the headline in the Independent as the Round of 16 elimination of Fabio Capello's side led to reflections on England's serial failures, tactical shortcomings and the demise of a so-called 'golden generation'.
England have been a sad case at this World Cup: unimpressive in drawing with the United States, awful against Algeria, mediocre in victory against Slovenia and, when the time came to raise their game yesterday, they were outclassed, out-thought and even outfought by Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and the rest of Joachim Low's dynamic young Germany team. Their victory yesterday serves as another unwanted milestone in the history of the England football team, a reminder of how far behind the rest of the world we have fallen while congratulating ourselves on the undisputed global appeal of the Premier League.
Only the details and the venues change in the story of how England impersonate a serious international power. In the last ten years alone that conceit has been exposed in Charleroi, Shizuoka, Lisbon, Gelsenkirchen and now Bloemfontein. England have still not beaten a top-flight nation in World Cup combat since the Bobby Moore-Geoff Hurst generation exploited home advantage in the country's one and only appearance in the final of an international tournament. A brutal pattern reasserted itself in the Free State as German youth flourished and English maturity tipped over into obsolescence. Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller – flag-bearers for a more thrilling German style of play – pushed a whole crop of English household names into permanent shadow.
Against Germany's younger, fresher legs England too often looked sluggish, pedestrian even. Even when the age gap was irrelevant – Miroslav Klose, 32, being older than John Terry and Matthew Upson – Germany were still quicker. England are chronically short of pace for a top-level international team. Of the starting line-up, only Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson and Jermain Defoe could be described as quick, while the heart of the team – the central defenders and central midfield – could either be described as slow by international standards or, in Lampard's case, showing the effects of several years of non-stop football. All four goals were a consequence of poor defending, but Germany's greater speed and mobility was a significant factor in each.
The Daily Telegraph
If Gerrard had played in his Liverpool position and Rooney in his Manchester United role up top, England would have had their two potential match winners in tandem. Such good friends as Gerrard and Rooney love working together. At 30, Gerrard will never play in a World Cup again. His one shot at international glory has been taken away. If England had played 4-2-3-1, they may still have lost to the vibrant Germans but it would have been worth utilising a system that coaxed the best from Gerrard and Rooney. The flaws inherent in 4-4-2 were brutally exposed here as the Germans flooded through.
Some things never change. Another World Cup and England again depart the stage early, heads bowed, reputations skewered and playing football from the Dark Ages. And, this time, on the back of their biggest World Cup hammering ever, totally outclassed by a young German team with eight players under 26. Since 1966 we have never beaten any team of any quality at the knockout stage of a World Cup. Our only successes have been against the might of Paraguay, Belgium, Cameroon, Denmark and Ecuador. So no more excuses, please.