Wayne Rooney finally admits Hodgson got tactics wrong at the Euros
England's record scorer doesn't hold back
Credit to him for making it this long without speaking out, but Wayne Rooney has finally confirmed what we all already knew: Roy Hodgson got his tactics wrong in the disastrous England Euro 2016 campaign.
After keeping a dignified silence until now, he told the Daily Mail that it was a mistake for Hodgson to change the team so drastically in the final group game against Slovakia.
By that point, England had effectively qualified, but a win would have enabled them to top the group. In the event, the weakened team struggled to break down an organised Slovakia team, drew 0-0, and finished second, resulting in a second round match match against Iceland which - even if they had won - would have resulted in an extremely difficult route to the final.
"If you leave [the tournament] playing your best, beaten by a better team, I accept that. But we didn't play. We had lost momentum from the Slovakia game and tournament football is about confidence. You get that from winning. It was Roy's decision to make those changes against Slovakia and either way, the team he put out should have been able to win. But, right or wrong, I wanted to play and I can't deny that."
When pressed on whether he would have made the same decision, he said, "No, I wouldn't have rested six players, It's more than half the team. It was a gamble and it didn't pay off. When I came on against Slovakia it was difficult to change the game, impossible really. I was running around just trying to get the energy back into the team. Watching, I felt we lacked aggression - in the running, in the passing, we didn't have the tempo, so that's what I was trying to create. When you're on the bench it's frustrating because you always think you can bring something different."
He also questioned whether England's possession-based game was the correct one in a tournament where counter-attacking sides seemed to prosper.
"We were very poor against Iceland. Football can get lost in this new way of playing. Everyone is passing and moving when sometimes the simplest way - get it out wide, get crosses in the box, pick up the second ball - can be the best. It's not always the perfect way, the prettiest way, this vision people have of how football should be played - but it might get you a goal. Possession's fine, but it needs to have direction to it, and most times that has to be towards goal.
"Every coach has his own thoughts on how it should be played, but if it's not working, what's the problem with going long, getting them on the back foot, make it uncomfortable for them? There are a lot of different ways to approach it, but pass, pass, pass, and then eventually pass back to your goalkeeper? For a forward player, that gets frustrating. You need to get the balance right. You can over-complicate football. You keep moving the ball but if you're not getting near the goal, what's the point?"
Following the appointment of Sam Allardyce - who has refused to confirm whether Rooney will continue as captain - as England manager, Rooney added, "It is up to [him] to get our players into a zone where they know exactly what they've got to do, how they've got to defend the game at 1-0 up, 2-0 up, how they're going to attack it if we go behind. Different plans, different scenarios. We end up becoming predictable, and if you play that way at the top level you get found out. The job now is to get that mentality from the players in the biggest matches, because I'm convinced the ability is there."
Ironically, England's next game, and the first under Allardyce's stewardship, will be against Slovakia, when the Three Lions travel to the country to play a World Cup qualifier on 4 September.