We must learn to control games in midfield like the best teams

 
Trevor Steven
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ENGLAND did well to get this far in the tournament, but last night there was really no question that the better team won and football justice was definitely done. Roy Hodgson must now show that he can take the team forward, changing tactics so that England can control games and keep possession.

Hodgson’s men worked hard – you’ll get that from an England team – and we do have a decent back four, who managed to keep Italy out for two hours. John Terry was a stand-out figure for his last ditch tackles.

Overall the performance was very disappointing, though. England’s wide men like Ashley Young were never in the game. We needed to match Italy in the centre, for example by moving to a 4-3-3 that becomes a 4-5-1 when you don’t have the ball. Rooney was a shadow of what we’ve come to expect from him, and I’d have liked to have seen him come deep and mark Andrea Pirlo. It was a bit naïve to leave Pirlo as a roaming figure, running the game. Rooney could have tried to nullify his effect on the ball.

Italy don’t have wingers, they play with narrow midfielders, so England needed three in midfield to match them. We seemed to underestimate how good Italy are at keeping the ball; this is crucial in the modern game and England must learn to adapt to it.

Going into the penalties I was worried that none of England’s team were playing well, so they were not confident and not feeling good about how they had played. I have no problem with the misses, but it reflects a wider point.

I like players such as Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley, they are real footballers that this country has coming through. When they’re available England should switch to a three-man midfield. The team simply has to do better with the ball at their feet.

You look at the top sides and they usually play three in the centre and keep the ball. Last night England would work hard to win the ball, and then lose it immediately. What’s the point of that?

It is now up to Hodgson to show that he knows what international football is about. England are ranked sixth in the world but that’s based on qualifiers. Last night highlighted the deficiencies and now they must be rectified.

WHAT THEY SAID: REACTION TO ENGLAND’S EURO EXIT
“We played with everything we’ve got and unfortunately we weren’t good enough tonight. We didn’t do well in the shoot-out, myself included.” Joe Hart

“Everyone’s been great in training, every time we’ve come out I think we’ve done the country proud. But again we are going home with heartbreak. It’s difficult to take.” Steven Gerrard

“We were hoping to 'do a Chelsea'. If you’re not the best team you have to find an alternative way to win. Or forget about results for a bit and play a different style.” Michael Owen

“Italy were far superior. England didn’t deserve it and couldn’t keep up with the tempo of the game. It looked like too big a mountain for them to climb.” Jurgen Klinsmann

“Wow, out on penalties. Gutted for the lads, man. Pirlo is an inspiration and a heartbreaker. A pure footballing masterclass, and his penalty was too much.” Rio Ferdinand

“It’s a sad way to go out in any competition. We always felt the game tonight could go to penalties. The Italians play great football and they frustrated us.” Theo Walcott