Lancashire TelegraphMARC ILES MATCH VERDICT: Mario Balotelli does not help keep England in the World Cup (From Lancashire Telegraph)

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MARC ILES MATCH VERDICT: Mario Balotelli does not help keep England in the World Cup

Lancashire Telegraph: Mario Balotelli after the 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica Mario Balotelli after the 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica

MARIO Balotelli wanted a kiss from The Queen – millions of Englishmen are begging to offer him alternate directions.

Italy didn’t get close to getting the result that would have prolonged the agony for England fans, looking nothing like the side that had picked us apart in late hours of Saturday night.

Balotelli – fresh from his sensational winner against England – had bragged via his official Twitter account that he was going to be the saviour.

But like so often in his Manchester City career he disappeared into the haze, to be replaced by a bunch of un-associated headlines.

It wasn’t just his fault. Italy just weren’t at the races.

Andrea Pirlo was shackled in a way England could never manage, and Mario Balotelli was reduced to an embarrassing miss in the first half that left me thinking “why always us?”

There is no complaint, however, as Roy Hodgson’s side exit the tournament a game early.

We had no expectations going into the World Cup, so why should we have any retrospective ones now?

The problem is that through all the false positivity that has emanated from the England camp, we are losing sight of the problems that continue to haunt our game.

The Football Association have backed Roy Hodgson to complete his “four year cycle” and he deserves that vote of confidence. To fix England’s problems is not a matter of who Hodgson should have picked or what tactics he should have played.

It requires a thorough examination of how this game, our game, is taught from ground level up. And as ex-England winger Chris Waddle rightly pointed out in the aftermath of the defeat to Uruguay, it also needs a look into how the commercial juggernaut that is the Premier League is really affecting the sport.

“We never, ever learn from our mistakes,” said the former Spurs and Newcastle winger, clearly feeling the same utter exasperation that the rest of us were feeling on Thursday night.

His comments were pretty much echoed around the land as we summed up another brave but ineffectual performance against Uruguay.

England have invested heavily in St George’s Park, and that is the way. They need to look at the grassroots more carefully, as much as that seems like a cliché when any national team exits a tournament.

We have seen some signs of encouragement. This hasn’t been the utter disaster that it might seem on paper.

But can the Football Association pin down why a nation like Costa Rica, with a considerably smaller talent and resource-base can look so comfortable under pressure, and yet the most rewarded players on the planet look at odds with playing with their country?

Waddle is sick of it. I am sick of defending it. We need to act now.

TV Heaven: Clarence Seedorf, Thierry Henry and Alan Hansen sit on the BBC punditry sofa - probably the dream team of this World Cup.

TV Hell: As one Wanderers fan put it – “I would rather have 1,000 vuvuzelas directed towards my ears than five minutes of Robbie Savage’s commentary.”

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