The tourists found little joy in India's most popular holiday spot as they slid to a 49-run defeat on Monday chasing 294-6 in oppressive hot and humid weather.
The contest looks effectively over for England in the seven-match series where they must bounce back from a 0-3 deficit and win the remaining four games in equally challenging tropical conditions.
The travelling British media was particularly worried about star all-rounder Flintoff, who is leading the side in the absence of the injured Michael Vaughan.
"There are many reasons to be concerned about England's One-day side ... selection, skill levels, morale..." said the Daily Telegraph.
"But the biggest worry of all must be Andrew Flintoff. While other senior players rest at home, England's Atlas is carrying this arduous tour on his shoulders.
"Flintoff is not the kind of man who would ever put himself before the team. But perhaps the England management should consider doing exactly that.
"It cannot be worth flogging their prize asset through the whole series."
Flintoff's anguish at the team's performance in the Goa heat "was painful to see," wrote the Telegraph's correspondent.
"When he took a wicket, he winced. When he lost his own -- going down on one knee for a slog to deep midwicket -- he held the pose, then put a hand up to cover his face."
Asked what was going through his head as he lingered on the pitch, Flintoff replied: "What do you think? It's not appropriate to repeat here."
"The lads are desperate to win," Flintoff said later. "It is a mountain to climb now but they want to do it and so do I."
Former England coach David Lloyd said the One-day side should be similar to the Test squad.
Only six players who played in Goa on Monday, Andrew Strauss, Flintoff, Owais Shah, Paul Collingwood, Geraint Jones and James Anderson, played in the victorious third Test at Mumbai.
"In the Test arena we look confident, arrogant and organised," Lloyd told The Guardian.
"But it's the complete opposite in One-day cricket. There's a real uncertainty about the way we play the One-day game and I know (coach) Duncan Fletcher will be very annoyed at the lack of organisation."
Former Australian Test star Dean Jones, who is covering the tour for television, blamed the lack of fitness and the gruelling travelling schedule for England's misery.
"This is a seriously accident-prone team," said Jones, referring to missing stars like Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Simon Jones and Steve Harmison.
Worse, Kevin Pietersen was forced to miss Monday's match with a stomach ailment, not the first to fall to such avoidable bugs.
"Never have I seen so many injuries and illnesses in a touring team, it is quite bizarre," said Jones.
"I also think the selectors are not reading the conditions. Why on earth was (spinner) Gareth Batty kept out for the third match? Bad selection cost England the game in Goa."
The remaining four matches will be played in far-flung non-Test venues of Kochi (April 6), Guwahati (April 9), Jamshedpur (April 12) and Indore (April 15).