10 Reasons Why England Won’t Lift This World Cup
England, the country with arguably the best domestic league in the world, will once again head to Brazil as favorites in a lot of people minds. The media will built it up as a team full of world class players, a team that when it plays to its potential is good enough to go toe to toe with any other side in the world.
What do I think about it? Well, there is more chance of me hooking up with Megan Fox than England winning the World Cup. England are absolutely nowhere near to being good enough to win the biggest prize in soccer, it is that simple. Their media, the fans and the management say all the right things leading up to a big tournament, well in their opinion anyway, but the moment they come up against a big team they choke.
There are a lot of things wrong with the way the sport is played and run in the country and here is what I think they are:
1-Not enough talent and technical ability
First up, the players England produce are just not talented or technical enough to match the best in the world. Yes, they might beat a few decent teams in exhibition games; however, they just cannot do it when it comes to the big leagues. England simply don’t produce players who can dribble or beat a player or two with sheer skill when they are hurried by their opponents or are in a tight spot.
Even the FA has realized that, which is why they spent a hundred and ten million pounds to open the St. George’s Park complex to teach players how to play soccer the proper way. Let me ask you guys a question: How many of England players will be good enough to play for countries like Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Argentina and Brazil? Rooney, Gerrard and Lallana might make the grade, but the rest won’t get anywhere near. That for me sums it all up really.
2-Stuck in the past
The English have now started to realize somewhat that the game has moved on and they have been stuck in the past. They love players who run around all day and like they say “put in solid shifts all day long.” They like to see their players “getting stuck in” while tackling. Xabi Alonso the great Real Madrid and Spain midfielder had this to say about how the game is played in England when he was with Liverpool
Tackling is not really a quality, it’s more something you are forced to resort to when you don’t have the ball. You would come across an interview with a lad from the youth team and they’ve asked him his age, his heroes as a kid, and his strong points. And he would say things like shooting and tackling. I can’t get into my head that footballing development would educate tackling as a quality. What players should aspire to is that understanding of the game. We have players like Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Santi Cazorla, Silva and Mata. They can play in tight spaces and they know how to interpret the pattern of a game. They know when to dribble and when to play a short pass. And for me that intelligence is fundamental and needs to be developed from the kids’ level.
This is what it is all about right there for you. England is too obsessed with players who play hard soccer and that is not how the sport is played anymore. The “English way” will be beaten all day long by teams who play the “proper way.”
England has hardly ever been tactically competent, in the last few years at least and that is why they end up as the losing side more frequently. The tactical inflexibility stems from the fact that the team doesn’t have too many players who can play in different systems. Their technical deficiency hampers the national team, make no mistake about that.
The players play in certain fixed positions for their clubs most of the times and that is where they want to play for the national side as well. If a manager tries to play them differently, then the side becomes too dysfunctional to perform even at the level it performs normally. There are not a lot of surprises for the opposition and that is why it becomes quite easy for teams to plan against England.
4-Lack of identity
England has no identity as a soccer team or as a soccer nation. There is no particular style of play. The team lacks identity. They just run around, putting in tackles with no particular style of play. That has been the case for quite some time now and unless the team gets out of this identity crisis, they won’t be going anywhere soon even if they have some of the best players in the world.
Spain has always produced gifted players but before Euro 2008, they always floundered on the big stage. The biggest problem was that the players just didn’t gel as a proper team. They changed the way game was run in the country and their approach towards it. Look at where they are now. That has to change for England too and it has to come from the people making the decisions at the top.
5- The Premier League stronger than the FA
The league has become way too powerful for the Football Association to control. The gulf between the two organizations is bigger than the Great Canyon and it is pulling the English national team down for sure. The league is the most popular domestic competition in the world and features the best players from some of the most popular and glamorous clubs on the planet today.
The clubs just don’t invest in their youth programs like they should and that is detrimental for England’s national soccer team. Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian goalkeeper and one of the best in the world had this to say a few years back:
Having a competitive league doesn’t necessarily mean having competitive players. For a number of years now, the English league has had the best football and is the best league in terms of quality. The money that’s in the game means they can go and buy anyone from all over Europe or the world. This can happen in Spain and Italy as well as England but the league in England is no longer very faithful to what the national side needs. With this footballing globalisation, it’s very difficult. You struggle to have players from your own country playing in the top league.
The clubs just don’t produce enough talent or nurture the skills of young players. The name of the game has become “winning at all costs”. Because of that the clubs tend to buy players from all parts of the globe rather than taking the long term approach to produce homegrown players. There aren’t a lot of English players playing in the league compared to the likes of the Bundesliga, the Serie A or the La Liga and this just has to change.
6-Weak at handling pressure
England is mentally fragile and that hurts them when it comes to the Big Games. The pressure on them to deliver in tournaments is immense and you can see the players just don’t enjoy their soccer as much as they should. They just buckle under the pressure whereas all great sides thrive in these situations. It shouldn’t be like that because a lot of these players play for big clubs who fight for titles all year long and come out on top a lot of the times. When it comes to the national team, the weight of expectation to win their first major title since lifting the 1966 World Cup gets to them.
This is why they are so bad at penalty shootouts. The pressure in penalty shootouts is immense and England has a horrendous record. In total they have been involved in seven penalty shootouts over the years and have come out on top only once. They beat Spain in Euro 96 but lost to Germany in the penalty shootouts in the next stage. Taking a penalty kick places the pressure firmly on the player and the English just buckle when the time comes
7- Afraid to Change Things
Owing to their traditional mindset, England more than any other nation in the world has always been afraid to shake things up. The way soccer is played and governed has moved on but the English haven’t. Building the St Georges Park is all well and good but unless the approach to the game changes, it isn’t going to help anyone. They need to bring in foreign coaches who can open their eyes to how things are being done around the world.
Germany and Spain changed a lot of things and France too before them, to get back on track. The rest as they say is history. England need to embrace modern soccer and not run away from it. For too long now, they have stuck to their traditions, the time has now come for them to change that and move on.
8- Short on confidence
It looks as if the English players are scared of their shadows at times. They choke on the big stage, especially under the spotlight. The think tank knows that this is a problem area which is why they have brought on board psychologist Dr Steve Peters, who also works with Liverpool players. He will need to get the players believing in themselves but I think it will not make too much of a difference just yet. Dr Peters might have to pull a ‘Jordan Belfort’ if the English are to sell anything worth buying.
9- No bench strength
The bench strength for England doesn’t breed too much confidence with the fans either. There are not too many players that can come off the bench and change the game just like that. The strength in depth will not have other teams running for their lives. They are decent players but that is all they are.
They are either too young or are like-for-like replacements for the first eleven in most cases and that doesn’t bode well for England when they go to Brazil. They will need more than that if they are to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy and I just don’t see them doing that with the kind of limited potential they have in their ranks. Germany, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands can play different systems and that is a luxury England just can’t afford.
10- Roy Hodgson
The English team is a mirror image of their coach Roy Hodgson, decent enough but not quite top drawer. Hodgson has a wealth of experience having managed in eight countries as the coach of sixteen different sides. He reached the final of the UEFA Cup with Inter Milan and the final of the Europa League with Fulham which is not too bad. However he wasn’t able to go all the way with either of those clubs. He is a solid, dependable manager but I don’t see him beating the likes of Vicente Del Bosque, Joachim Loew, Louis Van Gaal or Luiz Felipe Scolari when it comes to tactics.
England will no doubt be trumpeted by many as the team to win the World Cup or they will go into that dark horse bracket, but for me they are still nowhere near either category. There are too many issues with the team and they will need to be sorted out if England are to win the World Cup or any major international tournament for that matter.
They have taken a few steps in the right direction with the construction of the St George’s Park complex but there is still a long way to go before that project starts to produce the kind of players England really need. Even that might not be good enough because there are issues that go beyond that.
England are in a tough spot right now but it isn’t one they can’t get out of. France, Germany and Spain have proved that. Now it is the turn of the country that invented the game to follow suit.