OK I feel I need to get a last football post out of the system, so please either bear with me or ignore as appropriate. Other kinds of content will resume tomorrow!
Here goes with observations on our demise from an observer who could never play much, and who isn't a big watcher of the game. (Quite good at FIFA06 for XBox, though!)
1) Motivation. There has to be something wrong when that many good players look ordinary playing together. If the group dynamic and motivation are right, I suspect that formation, etc become less of a problem. I seem to remember the Aussies had a 'lone striker' at times, but they always had three in the box when they needed it. Once we were 10, we played much better. What stops someone like Gerrard inspiring a comeback like he did for Liverpool in the Champions League?
2) Penalties. It's got to be about confidence. We are so spooked by earlier defeats, like 1990. The only English player who scored a penalty this time plays in... Germany. Coincidence?
3) Midfield. I suspect if the motivation and group dynamics were sorted, this would sort. All the 'lone striker' stuff came from the midfield seeming indecisive about who was going forward and who was covering. Two questions: a) Is our defence that unreliable? b) Why can't players of the quality of Gerrard and Lampard sort that out? If they can't, shouldn't we drop one, play 4-4-2 with Hargreaves/Carrick in the middle 4, and only play one of Gerrard/Lampard. Or play 4-5-1 with a proper lone striker like Bent or Johnson. Needs a brave manager to drop the expensive guys, but if they don't deliver...
4) ...Speaking of whom. Beckham. On his day, brilliant, but he's slowing down and not at his best. Time to start with someone else in that position. The left-side problem appear to have been solved! The two Coles did well, and we even have a left sided sub in Downing. It's the right side that now needs some work.
5) Manager. He takes 4 strikers - one injured and one novice. Another with fitness queries and one he doesn't really like. Was there really not room for one more like Defoe, Bent or even Andy Johnson? Also what about the impassive sitting on the bench. It might be good to calm down an Italian team, but I was sitting there wishing for a manager like Pearce who would have screamed his head off for the whole game and had a free and frank exchange at half time.
Not sure that has added to the accumulated wisdom of the world, but I feel better for it. Thanks for bearing with me. Here's to South Africa 2010. We'd better hurry up. If we don't win it soon, the Aussies will have learned football properly, and no-one else will get a look-in.