by Matt Squires
With the elation surrounding the squad’s qualification for next year’s World Cup finals now little more than a memory, last night’s defeat at the hands of an efficient Germany has meant that England have now lost two home games in succession for the first time in 36 years.
A 39th-minute header from Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker was enough to condemn Roy Hodgson’s to a second defeat in four days – the first time England have lost two games in a row at Wembley since 1977.
The underwhelming performance comes after Friday’s equally dismal loss to an Alexis Sanchez-inspired Chile, a friendly fixture that, much-like last night’s match, saw England field an experimental side in preparation for Brazil 2014.
As much as players and management alike have attempted to downplay the significance of these losses (Hodgson’s post-match message to the BBC was simply “don’t panic”), the manner in which England were dismantled has raised questions about their suitability.
In fairness to Hodgson, the previous two games have seen several players making their senior international debuts (Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Fraser Forster have all featured in the last week) and, against such established opposition as Germany and Chile, little could have been expected from them.
However, it is not the fact that England were defeated that has asked questions of the team. It is the fact that they went under in both games without even a whimper of response (Daniel Sturridge and co. even failed to register a single shot on goal against Germany, the first time since 1999).
Heading into the Chile game, England were undefeated in ten, having last tasted defeat away to Sweden in November 2012, a game memorable for that overhead kick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In that time, the Three Lions have won six, qualified for Brazil, and claimed victory over established world-beaters Brazil.
In the past week, however, the side have looked remarkable toothless, and the foundations strangely shaky. Despite the quasi-relief provided by newcomers Andros Townsend and Adam Lallana in midfield, the team have failed to rally any form of serious attacking intent, with even experienced heads in Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard being unable to muster any form of influence.
In both games, England have defended resolutely, but it was simply a matter of time before they conceded – a stark contrast to the impressively stubborn displays against the likes of Poland and Montenegro that saw World Cup qualification as group winners.
This, in itself, may not be much to worry about at this time. However, it may also double up as a wake-up call for Hodgson and the emerging England side that, with the likes of Rooney, Gerrard and Frank Lampard occupying diminishing roles going forwards, may not have the strength to make any impact of note come June 2014.
A familiar story, but on the basis of the defeats to Chile and Germany, England may once again offer little on the grandest stage in international football.