England joined the rest of the home nations this evening in failing to qualify for Euro 2008. In a dramatic game at Wembley, played in pouring rain on a dreadful pitch, England fell two-nil behind in calamitous circumstances in the first half, rallied to 2-2 in the second and then conceded a cruel third to crash out.
The Curse of the England Goalkeeper moved to poor Scott Carson as he made an almighty blooper for the opener, failing to get behind a softish shot and allowing it to spoon up and into the top of the net. England's back four were at sixes and sevens minutes later as Croatia played their way in and around Carson for the second. England looked shell-shocked and lifeless for the remainder of the half and it took the introduction of David Beckham and Jermain Defoe to bring some life to the corpse. Defoe's shirt was pulled for a penalty, which Lampard put away, but it looked very fortunate. David Beckham then whipped a trademark cross in for Crouch to bring down and volley home for 2-2. Home and dry we all thought but Croatia weren't finished and a fine cross-shot from 22 yards beat Carson who only saw it late. Darren Bent skimmed the top of the Croatian net but England were beaten.
The recriminations will begin and Steve McLaren has to bear the brunt of it. If I were him I would have already decided to resign if we failed to qualify and at least go with some self-respect. I suspect he won't, however, as it will probably be financially beneficial to be sacked in post irrespective of personal dignity.
England really need to look further than the Manager. The dinsoaurs at the FA need weeding out but it's difficult to see the turkeys voting for Christmas. McLaren undoubtedly had injury problems but this squad of players haven't done it for him when it's counted, much the way they didn't for Ericsson. The European Championships will excite as much interest here as the African Nations Cup.......