"There's a sense of relief when England go out of a major championship, like the end of a short but crap relationship," wrote Charles on his twitter feed. In truth, there is little to love about the "golden generation". Lampard does everything to conceal his reputed intelligence; there's an air of mealy-mouthed cruelty about him, as if he's fresh from reducing someone to tears at a nightclub. Gerrard has a kind of feckless fatalism. But it's Terry, with his slow, animal-stupid eyes, lumbering frame and brute malice, who sums up all that's loathsome about the England team, and indeed English culture. It's no accident that Enric Gonzalez singles out Terry - who mocked American tourists after 9/11, was arrested for brawling, parked his car in a disabled bay, all before the business with Wayne Bridge's ex - in his piece on how Thatcherite individualism has wrecked England's capacity for collective endeavour.
Heskey's being scapegoated, but he wasn't the problem. Yes, it was mystifying why Capello put him on yesterday when England needed goals, but the general thinking behind the inclusion of a player like Heskey is sound. He's the exact opposite of Hollywood - a player whose role is to allow others to play. The same is the case for Barry - a player of limited ability for sure, but one who can play short passes to team-mates and who will work for the team. (Yes, he was caught in possession for one of the Germany goals, but that was in the opponents' penalty area: he might legitimately have expected his team-mates to cover for him.) Millner, too, who at his best in this tournament resembled his Villa mentor John Robertson - his loping stride meant that he looks too slow to beat the full-back, but suddenly, inexplicably, he's past the defender and putting in a deadly cross. Germany has far more Heskeys, Barrys and Milners than it does Lampards or Gerrards; it's just that their equivalents of Barry, Heskey and Milner are fitter and faster. (The one England superstar who did live up to his reputation in my view was Ashley Cole - solid defensively when not exposed by Terry, comfortable on the ball, and a threat going forward.)
One of the pleasing trends in this World Cup, actually, has been its underming of the cult of the individual. It's as if the games so far have been an answer of the Real to capitalism's obsessive individualism. Despite the punditocracy palpably willing him to excel (Digital Ben has pointed out the absurdity of newspapers making him man of the match even when they score other players in the Argentina team higher in the match ratings), Messi has yet to really impress in the required way. As @andrewspooner acidly observed on twitter yesterday, "Drogba, Canavaro, Walcott, Evra, Ribery, Rooney, Ronaldhino - all suffering from Nike advert curse - only Ronaldo left."