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Why England slipped
by Paul Kennedy, November 21st, 2007 7AM



Steve McClaren pulled a Greg Ryan Wednesday night. But unlike the Ryan, who lasted 25 days as U.S. women's coach after his team's 4-0 loss to Brazil following his decision to switch goalies, McClaren lasted all of about 12 hours after England's shocking 3-2 loss to Croatia at Wembley before the FA dumped him as coach.

McClaren's decision to drop Paul Robinson, who had started the first 11 qualifiers, in favor of Scott Carson in goal on the final day of qualifying for the 2008 European Championship proved as disastrous as Ryan's decision to drop Hope Solo in favor of Briana Scurry.

Like Scurry, who had the bad luck in Hangzhou to start of her evening with an own goal, Carson had no business playing on Wednesday night. As former Arsenal goalie Bob Wilson described him, Carson looked like a "frightened rabbit." He set the tone for a disastrous evening by letting Niko Kranjcar's long-range shot skip through his gloves in the eighth minute. With England down 2-0 at the half, McClaren would have probably otherwise subbed Carson, but he needed to bring on reinforcements for his sputtering attack.

But similarities between Ryan's U.S. women and McClaren's England don't end there. Both teams have been living off their reputations for some time but have been overtaken in their respective games. The bottom line is that England, like the U.S. women, is overrated.

England came back -- thanks to McClaren's halftime substitutes Jermain Defoe and David Beckham -- to make it 2-2, but the tie it needed to qualify wouldn't last long as Mladen Petric -- give acres of room to shoot, like Kranjcar early in the game -- again beat Carson from distance. Would any team worthy of calling itself a world power have given Petric so much room with the game on the line?

Yes, Carson was at fault (on the first and, to a lesses extent, third goals), but it was in midfield, which decides games these days, England lost its way to Euro '08. Steven Gerrard? Frank Lampard? Big names? Yes. Great players. Hardly.


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