A capacity Wembley crowd was shell-shocked, barely able to grasp the nightmare unfolding in front of them. The score line read 3-2. England had once again lost to a lesser-known team, at home. They failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
With so many star players injured and seated on the bench, England had little to cheer about from the beginning. Starting with a 4-5-1 lineup was too defensive a mindset. This gave Croatia more time to control the ball in the first half and make the score 2-0. One lone striker was all England had to attack with and Peter Crouch was the man chosen. Crouch has skills however he is no Rooney or Ronaldo. Carson would have been better to start with considering the number of international games under his belt and his current form. Ashley Cole and Hargreaves were out too, and even Beckham was not brought on till the second half.
The initial plan was to play long crosses from the midfield to Crouch. He was given the ball although he was in no scoring position. McClaren soon after made changes from the 4-5-1 field positions to 4-4-2. Once England had equalized, it was back to the old-field setup thereby giving Croatia hold of the game once again.
Beckham was sent along with Jermain Defoe in the second half. His presence had unsettled the Croatians. England seemed to be limping back in the game and scored twice, making it 2-2. McClaren must have thought of the time when Beckham had lined up a 50th minute injury time goal free kick against Greece that saw England through to the 2002 World Cup. Sadly this was not to be his day, nor was it Englands. Lampards penalty and Beckham getting 99 caps seemed to be the only high points for England at Wembley.
Bilic had said at the start of the match “We are coming to Wembley to play a serious match. We want to play our own style as it will be a huge experience for every single Croatian player.” He certainly meant business when he was saying that. This loss cost Steve McClaren his job as Head Coach of the English side. Many believe his wrong tactics were behind this huge loss.
England have the World Cup Qualifiers round the corner and it remains to be seen how long they will take to come out of this major defeat. This ought to serve as a wake up call to the English side, the same way as the one with the Mighty Magyars had done nearly 54years ago. The nation that invented the ‘beautiful game of football’ is now finding it hard to qualify. Will the Brits bounce back in time? Well it’s any ones guess.