At first blush, it would seem that England has a new goat to take the role occupied by Gareth Southgate since Southgate bumbled a penalty kick that was saved by the German net minder in UEFA Euro 1996.
We have to say if there ever was a bloke less deserving on infamy; it would be John Stones, whose momentary lapse in concentration may have cost the Three Lions a slot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final.
Emphasis on the “may.” The situation could have been avoided entirely if England had not set back in their defensive end after taking the lead in the fifth minute of their semifinal game with Croatia.
Trying to guard a one goal lead for 85 minutes is not the sort of thing anyone wants when so much is on the line and if England had pressed when the pressing was good, Mario Mandzukic’s extra time goal would have meant little if England had spent the balance of regular time testing the suspect hamstring of Croatia goalie Danijel Subasic.
Stones was caught out for a split second, watching the ball and permitting Mandzukic to slip behind him for the decider off a set piece.
It seemed that every time we looked Croatia was lining up a corner. They took so many that late in the game, Luka Modric had to turn the duties over to one of the other Croatia players.
If blame must be cast, some would have to belong to Kyle Walker, whose failure to clear the ball exposed Stones.
Given the heartbreak of the loss for England, it is impossible not to express recriminations, but Stones deserves a lot of the credit for England being in the game in the first place. On balance, he had a fine tournament, including a brace in the easy win over Panama.
Had the Lions bothered to exert the same effort that saw them ahead by five over Panama, England could have conceded goals and still found themselves in the much desired but now evaporated hope of an England France final.