Since England were dumped out of the World Cup I’ve been reflecting on what could’ve been done to prevent it and why so many “World Class” players on the England team continually underperform wearing the 3 Lions.
Although I’ve tried to go past the obvious, I keep coming back to the same point. We have too many square pegs in round holes.
The England team that played at the 2010 World Cup is worth over £200m. Honestly, that’s not a massive amount of money considering what some players are worth these days, but the team was worth enough and had enough world class players to perform better than it did. And it’s how we perform that is my biggest bone of contention when it comes to how England have done recently. Good teams get knocked out of competitions all the time, that’s part and parcel of tournaments. But that England have never looked even close to being equal to the sum of it’s parts to me is criminal. So lets look at a few teams/countries that seem to do it right.
Germany: As an Englishman it almost physically hurts me to say this, but ze Germans always perform when it counts. Their formation changes over the years, but the calm, efficient and simple team ethic remains. They’ve had their own world class stars and still managed to put the team first. However, this World Cup is a perfect example of Germany performing without a single world class player and still managing to not only advance in the tournament but also play well while doing it. The secret seems to be a collective way of playing as a team that supercedes the individual players on the team.
Italy: These guys are the king of the 1-0 win. Italy have been known as a defensive team since I can remember. They’ve always played with defensive solidity no matter what. Some say it’s negative and not particularly pretty to watch, but again, it’s a collective way of playing that supercedes the individual players on the team.
Spain: The Spanish are a little different in that they haven’t had success playing their style until very recently when they won Euro 2008. They didn’t change their style of play, but they got some serious upgrades in certain positions that allowed them to play the same way. Fernando Torres has blossomed into arguably the best striker in the world which has given Spain the ability to play with a penetration that was previously missing. Their short passing style hasn’t changed much over the years, but now they have a player that can put the finishing touch to their moves. Don’t assume though that they won’t yank Torres off the pitch if he isn’t playing well. In today’s game against Paraguay Torres was pulled off because he just wasn’t cutting it. Who did they replace him with? Fabregas. I’ll get to why this is important in part 2.
Argentina: To me Argentina are the best example of what I’m talking about. Argentina produce great players on such a consistent basis you’d think they were genetically produced in a lab. The embarrassment of riches Argentina have causes another problem. How do you fit them all into a team? You don’t! In the World Cup of 2002 Argentina’s press were calling for Hernan Crespo to be played alongside Gabriel Batistuta in attack. At the time Batistuta played at a lone striker supported by two attacking players who provided him with service. The press wanted both players to play to score more goals. Thankfully the manager at the time understood that for either player to play to their full potential, they needed to be the lone striker. Playing them both together would neutralise them both as neither would provide service for the other.
Argentina are doing the same thing in this World Cup. Argentina currently play with Higuain as the lone striker with Messi and Tevez playing behind. This time Argentina have Sergio Aguero sitting on the bench. Aguero is coveted by most of the richest teams on the planet and is valued at around £40-50 million. To have Tevez, Aguero and Messi all on the field at the same time sounds like a dream come true, until you try to make them all fit.
With Aguero as with Crespo the managers have understood that you can’t have all your best players on the pitch at the same time to the detriment of team balance.
In Part 2:
- How England’s media play a vital role in how we play
- How England have persevered with square pegs in round holes
- How our players hold too much power
- How 2 world class managers haven’t been able to get us to play well
So England are out. Surprise surprise.
I wanted to let a few days pass before I posted anything about to game to avoid the same knee-jerk bollocks I’ve seen all over the English press these last few days. Honestly I don’t think my opinion has changed, so here goes…
I think the 1-4 scoreline flattered ze Germans somewhat but there was no doubting they were the better team. TEAM! That’s the reason England are out. That’s the reason England haven’t managed to play to their potential. England have a great squad, but it’s a squad of individuals. Individually the German squad pales in comparison, but as a team they showed us how to play.
England fans are going to immediately mention the goal that should’ve stood. They’ll talk about how it would’ve changed the way the game was played if we had gone in at half time with the scores level. There’s no doubt that it was a travesty of justice and the recriminations will continue for years. So let’s go down that road. Frank Lampard scores what was a quite sumptuous lob from just outside the area. England go in level after having scored two goals in as many minutes. Do I honestly think that was going to rattle the young German side? Of course not. If it had been any other team, yes. But ze Germans are unflappable. Their teams are ALWAYS calm and level as a unit. It is one of the qualities that has made them so formidable during penalty shoot outs and in latter stages of major competitions. Germany are one of the few teams in the world to consistently perform better than expected with average players. Take 2002 for example. They managed to get to the final with Brazil with what was a very VERY ordinary squad. Fine, so they beat UAE 8-0 in the group stages, but so could most non league teams!
In 2002 we also saw, what I consider to be, the epitome of the German mentality. In the semi final of the World Cup Ballack gets a booking which means he will miss the final should Germany get there. Instead of crying like a baby and becoming a passenger on the team because he can’t get over his own personal loss, he lead his team to the final. It was one of the best performances I’ve seen in an International shirt. When you consider the stage, the mental turmoil and the level of opposition; it was an inspiring performance. Those of you with long enough memories will remember Gazza in Italia ‘90. Picked up a yellow card in the semis and was out of the final. Gazza was nigh on useless for the rest of the match. There are famous pictures of him crying once he realised what he’d done. England loved him for his weakness and his emotion. Germany obviously expects more from it’s top players. Therein lies a huge difference in these two countries, and the players it produces.
So if England wouldn’t have won even if Lampard had scored his lob, what does that mean for English football?
We have great players, but have an awful team. Pay millions of Pounds a year for one of the best managers in the world, but perform worse than when we had the “cold, heartless Swede” in the hotseat. The media in England by and large continue to be a knee-jerk, dim witted group of people. But what’s new? This has been the same for decades now. That our players can’t deal with the same problems we had in Italia ‘90 or Euro ‘96 to me seems a little too much like an excuse. This doesn’t mean that the media is wrong for what it does and the role it plays, but I’m not going to hold my breath for those vultures to start holding back.
We deserved what we got in South Africa. If we had beaten Germany it would’ve papered over the cracks of our weaknesses. This way at least we are forced to come face to face with our inadequacies as a country, squad and team. At least, I hope.
Germany should just let us score in the second half out of good will.
So England play Germany on Sunday for a place in the Quarter Finals of the World Cup 2010. Then Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow finally returns to our screens for season 15 of Top Gear. Finally, HBO’s Entourage comes back for what could be it’s final season.
Every sport has it’s grudge matches. Two teams that just don’t like each other for one reason or another, and have no problem with the animosity. Whether it’s Yankees v Red Sox, Lakers v Celtics, Liverpool v Man Utd, Real Madrid v Barcelona, we can all think of a great rivalry in the sport of our choice. England v Germany is this kind of rivalry, but now it’s magnified to the point of consuming an entire country! Of course there was WW2, but that was just the start. We narrowly beat them in the 1966 World Cup Final with a dubious goal from Geoff Hurst. Then they beat us 3-2 in the quarter finals of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico where there were thoughts that our goalkeeper had been poisoned the night before the game. In 1990 we lost the World Cup semi final on penalties. In 1996 we lost again on penalties in the semi finals of a tournament we were hosting. We then beat them in Euro 2000 and then put 5 past them in their own back yard in their most humiliating defeat on home soil. Now we play a young German team for a place in the quarter finals, where the winner will probably meet Argentina, and go out of the competition.
Top Gear has been a favourite show of mine since it used to give used car buying advice with Quentin Wilson and sports cars were tested by pro driver Tiff Nedell. Now it’s about Bugattis and races across Europe but for me Top Gear could quite simply be the best “Man Show” on TV right now. Having said that, if you look in the audience there are just as many women there as men; and plenty of my friends tell me their wives/girlfriends/partners watch the show and enjoy it just as much as any man. So maybe it’s just the best show on TV period.
Entourage is another kind of “Man Show.” Women went nuts over Sex and the City because it showed women talking and acting like “real women” do. Entourage is, in my opinion, the male version of Sex and the City. Drama, E, Vinnie and Turtle are male versions of the SATC girls. Of course, this means crude talk about women, sex, more women and more sex. But let’s be honest, this is what guys talk about when they’re comfortable. There’s also a huge amount of living vicariously through these guys just in the same way that women do with the SATC girls. However you slice it, it’s a great show for men in the same way that SATC was for women.
Hopefully now it’s easier to understand why Sunday is gearing up to be a big day! I can’t wait. Now “Hug it out, bitch!”
If Capello manages that he should be given a Knighthood, then locked up in a maximum security prison for the safety of mankind because he will have proven himself to be some kind of Evil Genius!