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England's 'Unforgivable Situation'
Independent, October 18th, 2007 3:45PM

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The British press took its knives Thursday out following England's 2-1 loss to Russia in Moscow. The loss puts the Lions in jeopardy of missing next summer's European Championships, as both Croatia and Russia would now qualify from Group E with wins in their last two games. Now, "barring the improbable assistance of those footballing pygmies Macedonia, Israel and Andorra, England will spend next summer selling a soiled brand in Asia or the Americas while the real football goes on in Europe," says the Independent's Glenn Moore in a scathing review of England's qualifying campaign, calling it "an unforgivable situation given the quality of players available."

And rightly so: you certainly couldn't lump Croatia and Russia, which dealt England its two losses, into the same category as regular qualifiers France, Italy, Germany, or Spain; neither one has passed the first round of a major tournament since 1998.

Justifiably, Moore says, the blame falls on the shoulders of Coach Steve McClaren, whose decision to tuck left-back Joleon Lescott into the middle neutralized Joe Cole, forcing him to defend for most of the game. And while McClaren pipes on about the referee's poor penalty decision (it was outside the box), even Guus Hiddink, his opposite number, recognizes the tactical error: "We had a lot of space on the right side and so we could penetrate there," the Russia coach said. "They were vulnerable that side. And I like making [the left winger] Joe Cole a left full-back: you get rid of one of their attackers. That is why we could damage them."

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