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COMMENT: The Three Lions are on the brink of elimination from the World Cup after losing their first two Group D matches, and the ex-Fulham boss is rightly coming under scrutiny

By Greg Stobart in Brazil

So it turns out Greg Dyke was correct in his assessment of England’s chances when he made his throat-slitting gesture at the World Cup draw.

Now the Football Association chairman will be responsible for making the decision over whether to swing the axe on Roy Hodgson.

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England were never going to win the World Cup, we all knew that.

Yet this has been a chastening tournament for Hodgson and his players. Two defeats from two matches leave the Three Lions on the brink of their first group stage exit since 1958.

Whether another manager could have done a better job is debateable. Hodgson has not disgraced himself and it is abundantly clear that England’s problems lie far deeper than the manager.

In any case, FA sources have suggested that Hodgson’s job is safe for the remaining two years of his contract, with broad support for the long-term progress being made and the 66-year-old’s introduction of youth into the squad.

Who would be the obvious alternative anyway? The highest placed English manager at the end of the Premier League season was Tim Sherwood in sixth followed by Alan Pardew in tenth and Tony Pulis in 11th.

So England will stick by a manager who is eminently likeable, respectable and – quite crucially for the FA – is considered a proper coach by a governing body looking to promote St George’s Park and improve coaching.

It was a major reason Hodgson got the job in the first place just over two years ago ahead of Harry Redknapp.

But Hodgson has looked out of his depth when it comes to tournament-level international football, just as he was found out in his only high-profile club job with Liverpool, when he was sacked after just six months.

At Euro 2012, England scraped through the group stages before a lamentable quarter-finals exit to Italy on penalties and here in Brazil the Three Lions’ tournament is effectively over after two matches.

England and Hodgson were praised for their attitude and performance in the defeat to Italy last Saturday, but that encouraging attacking display felt like the exception to the rule under his leadership.

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The vim and vigour of young attacking talents like Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling have given England supporters something to get excited about and a team they can finally support after the doomed eras of Fabio Capello and Steve McLaren.

But despite the glimpses of quality against Italy, England do not have the right manager to get the best out of these young attacking talents.

That was clear in the stodgy, laboured attacking display against Uruguay and the playground defending that allowed Luis Suarez to score twice and shatter England’s chances of reaching the second round.

A large part of the tactical plan during the World Cup seems to have been to ask the Liverpool players, most notably Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, to play as they do for their club, without creating a system that has anything like the same cohesion.

Hodgson is old school, cautious and predictable. His strength lies in getting the likes of Fulham and West Brom – and at international level, Switzerland – to punch above their weight.

He is organised and functional, not the kind of man to build a fluid attacking unit to get the best out of star names. Nor does he have the strength of personality to truly motivate, galvanise and get the best out of underperforming stars like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

Hodgson was handed an incredibly tough draw – how he’d have loved a group like those England faced in 2006 and 2010 – but it is still embarrassing that the country that boasts the ‘best’ and richest league in the world can perform so meekly.

While there appears to be little appetite for change at the moment, that may no longer be the case if England lose their final Group D match against Costa Rica and fly back to Heathrow with a record of three defeats from as many games.

One of the problems with judging Hodgson’s success or otherwise is that only tournaments provide a true measuring stick.

The FA could let a competition winner take over the England team for Euro 2016 qualifying and they would still reach the finals from a group completed by Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.

Friendlies are rightly used by the England manager as a chance to explore the options at his disposal and experiment with changes in tactics and personnel.

Nevertheless, it is still telling that England have only won two of their last eight fixtures, beating poor Peru and Denmark sides. Hodgson’s men failed to beat Honduras and Ecuador and lost to Germany, Chile, Italy and Uruguay.

In other words, they can’t beat a decent team.

Recent history tells us that changing the manager is unlikely to change much else when it comes to the England team, and Hodgson insisted after the Uruguay defeat that he will not resign.

But that does not mean he is the right man for the job, even if Greg Dyke chooses not to slit another throat.
 

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