England will miss next year's European Championship in a huge embarrassment to the nation that invented modern soccer.
WEMBLEY, England — England will miss next year’s European Championship in a huge embarrassment to the nation that invented modern soccer.
Needing only a tie at home in its final qualifier, England allowed two quick goals, rallied with an equalizer off David Beckham’s cross and then lost to Croatia 3-2 Wednesday night.
“We just didn’t perform tonight, and that’s the end of it,” said Beckham, who made his 99th international appearance.
It’s the first major tournament England will miss since the 1994 World Cup, and is likely to lead to the departure of coach Steve McClaren, who benched Beckham for the first half and started relatively untested goalkeeper Scott Carson, whose blunder on his first touch led to the game’s first goal.
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“You should see the dressing room — so disappointed to have let so many people down,” McClaren said. “Explanations are for later. It’s very difficult to reflect after a huge disappointment, losing a game like that in front of our fans and in front of the nation.”
McClaren, much criticized since replacing Sven-Goran Eriksson in August 2006, is unlikely to stay on — Graham Taylor quit six days after England failed to qualify for the ’94 World Cup.
“No, I’m not stepping down,” McClaren said. “Ultimately I take responsibility and I accept that. It is my job to get us qualified, and I failed to do that.”
Beckham, too, hopes to be around for the 2010 World Cup. McClaren dropped him last year, then brought back the 32-year-old midfielder.
“I’m not retiring,” he said. “I have always said that from the moment I was taken out of the team and the moment I came back into the team. I’m not stepping down.”
Russia (7-2-3), in a game played simultaneously, won 1-0 at Andorra on Dmitry Sychev’s goal in the 39th minute to climb one point ahead of the English (7-3-2) and finish second to Croatia (9-1-2) in Group E.
Niko Kranjcar, Ivica Olic put Croatia ahead 2-0 in the first 14 minutes, but Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch scored in the second half to tie it. Mladen Petric got the goal that knocked out the English in the 77th minute, eight minutes after he entered the match.
England, eliminated in the quarterfinals of last year’s World Cup, was missing Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and John Terry because of injuries, and they watched from their team dugout. They came on the field after the final whistle to support their teammates, but McClaren went straight down the tunnel.
Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard, all visibly upset, stayed for a while on the field, acknowledging the crowd as Croatia’s players celebrated in front of their cheering fans.
The English, whose qualification chances dwindled when they wasted a second-half lead and lost at Russia last month, had been given new hope when Russia was beaten at Israel last weekend. But playing against a team that already clinched a berth in the 16-nation field, England failed to take advantage.
“We’ve felt we’d been given that second chance, and you have to take them when they’re given to you,” Beckham said.
With Beckham on the bench, the English fell behind when Kranjcar’s 25-yard shot dipped, bounced off the field and went into the net off an arm of Carson, who made his international debut just last week. McClaren used Carson in place of Paul Robinson, whose play has been shaky of late, and started Shaun Wright-Phillips ahead of Beckham in an effort to inject speed.
Robinson, who had played 41 England matches and was the starting goalkeeper at the World Cup, wasn’t even dressed. McClaren said he still backed his decision to play Carson.
“Ultimately on a pitch like that, there’s going to be mistakes and we made too many,” McClaren said. “It’s a massive pain.”
Olic made it 2-0 in the 14th minute, beating an offside trap, taking a pass from Eduardo da Silva and going around Carson before putting the ball into a corner of the net.
Many in the crowd of 88,091 jeered at halftime, Beckham and Jermaine Defoe came on to add offense at the start of the second half.
Lampard converted a penalty kick in the 56th after Defoe was fouled by Josip Simunic in the penalty area. Beckham’s cross in the 65th set up a tying goal by Crouch, who chested the ball and volleyed it past goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa.
Petric lifted Croatia back in front with a 25-yard shot that beat Carson to the far corner.
Heavy rain left the field at Wembley Stadium waterlogged in patches at each end. The penalty and corner areas were covered by surface water while both teams warmed up. Field staff worked to remove divots.
Euro 2008 qualifying roundup
Russia, Sweden, Turkey and Portugal all advanced to complete the 16-team field for the tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
Sweden and Turkey qualified with victories in the final round, and Portugal made it with a 0-0 tie with Finland. Russia beat Andorra 1-0 and took advantage of England’s loss to Croatia.
Already in the tournament were: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, defending champion Greece, World Cup champion Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Switzerland.
The draw for the four groups is Dec. 2 in Lucerne, Switzerland.