With England set to meet Montenegro in their World Cup 2014 qualifying match, we look at English football’s international woes.

 

england(c)izaharjournal

One of the most inexplicable conundrums of world football today is that of the England national team. Backed by many as a good team, on the back of the best of Premier League talent playing in the national squad, England have always failed to deliver to the high expectations set for them by pundits, media and fans. The embarrassing riches earned by these players in the Premier League have no bearing on their international performances, which have led people to believe that the England players do not care as much for international football as they do club football. This has been quashed by their skipper, Liverpoolai??i??s Steven Gerrard, who believes that it is the players who care the most:

ai???Itai??i??s nonsense to say that. Nonsense,ai??i??ai??i?? said Gerrard, his depth of pride and desire palpable.

ai???The pain and the agony. How long that lasted after we didnai??i??t qualify for Euro 2008. I wish you could bottle that and show it to people who say those things and doubt how much we care.

ai???We care. Trust me, we care. No one cares more than the players.

“We understand the fans and media are passionate, but thatai??i??s certainly the case in the dressing room.

ai???Itai??i??s a shame the supporters and certain people canai??i??t go into the dressing room and see how we prepare and how much we want this.

“The word I use when people bring it up is just ai???nonsense.ai??i??ai???

One man who has been very vocal about his disappointment at the current England team recently has been Rio Ferdinand, who says the English team has ai???no identityai???. The Manchester United defender thinks that England have never had a distinct and unique style of playing ever since World Cup ai??i??98, when Glenn Hoddle was the manager.

“If all the names were taken off the back of the shirts and the colours were changed, you couldn’t go in there and say, ‘that’s an England team, that’s our identity, that’s the way we play,” he said.

“That’s from the under-16s right up to the senior team. Whereas you look at an Italian team, a Dutch team, a Spanish team, a German team or a Brazilian team, without seeing the names on the shirts, you would identify them because they’re working from a script.

“We started to see something when Glenn Hoddle was in charge, (there was) a bit of an identity then, free-flowing football and you would say we were starting to get an idea of the pattern of what he wanted to implement in the team.

“Since then I don’t think we’ve actually really seen an identity, where you could say, ‘that’s an England team,’ where you look at the under-21s and go, ‘that’s an England team’.ai???

While some of what Ferdinand has said might be true, there is more to it than meets the eye. The truth is that England have never been very good since their famous World Cup triumph in 1966, where a controversial goal-line decision influenced the proceedings in the final against West Germany. The famous England performance in Euro ai??i??96 under manager Terry Venables where they were beaten semi finalists on penalties make people believe they were unfortunate not to play the final. Truth is England made it to the semi finals through a combination of good fortune and playing teams lesser than world class.

They drew with Switzerland, struggled to beat a Scotland side, who missed a penalty, and had to look for a moment of inspiration from the immensely gifted Paul Gascoigne. Then in the knockout rounds beat Spain on penalties and lost to West Germany yet again on penalties. The only victory of note was their win against Holland in the group stages.

Moving on, England have never performed as expected of them in any international tournaments since and there is no identity because there never was. The truth is that England are less technical and less skillful than the bigger international teams like Spain, Italy, Germany and Brazil. They have players who have been exalted to a high status owing to their performances in the Premier League, but on the international stage, they flop.

One of the reasons for this has been rightly pointed out by Ferdinand – the decline in the number of English players in the Premier League. Since the start of the Premier League in 1992-93, the number of domestic players in the league has dropped from 72% to an alarming 32% in 2012-13.

Two decades of Premier League football has eroded England of its chance to blood homegrown talent on the big stage. And the reason for this is the massive influx of money and foreign players in the league. When we look at countries who have done well internationally like Spain and Germany, we can clearly notice that most of their players are homegrown talents who ply their trade in the La Liga and the Bundesliga respectively.

In fact there are talented Spaniards who find it hard to break into the Spanish first eleven because they do not play in Spainai??i??s La Liga ai??i?? case in point being Juan Mata who is still not the first name on the Spanish national team sheet.

england(c)dailymail

Ferdinand referred to Manchester Cityai??i??s game against Newcastle recently where out of 22 starters, only three were English. City have only used two English starters this season ai??i?? Joe Hart and Joleon Lescott. All of Newcastleai??i??s goals have been scored by Frenchmen this season. While it is important to embrace ideas brought in by foreigners, there has to be a right balance of nationals in club teams.

Ferdinand believes that a rule should be brought into effect that imposes a certain number of players of England nationality to be present in the squad. This may kill talent a bit but would be necessary if the England national team hope to compete internationally with the bigger teams.

It is true that foreigners have helped make the Premier League one of the most popular leagues of the world. The likes of Thierry Henry, Gianfranco Zola and Cristiano Ronaldo have set the stage ablaze with their performances. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger too has brought in scientific ways to prepare teams before matches, but it is time English clubs promote homegrown talent.

Clubs like West Ham and Southampton have always focused on building home grown talent, but they have had to sacrifice on winning trophies by employing such a strategy. This, Ferdinand feels is the reason why clubs to do not want to follow in their footsteps, instead looking for short cut methods of winning by buying cheaper foreign talent.

Southampton in recent times have been the standout performers in this respect introducing players like Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse over the last few years.

England may not have an identity crisis. Gary Neville for one believes England has a specific DNA:

“We’ve got to be careful,” Neville, who is part of England’s coaching staff, told The Times. “When people talk about the DNA of English football, we’ve got one. We work hard, we’re organised, structured, resilient, hard to beat. Not bad qualities.

“People say we don’t have a DNA? Give me a break. We have a DNA as a country – British standards, the British legal system, solidity, structure, organisation, that never-say-die spirit.ai???

However, they certainly need to bring up more talent from the club grass root levels. That, and practice penalty shoot outs. The number of tournaments in which they have gone out on penalties should be a record on its own ai??i?? and one they wouldnai??i??t want to have associated with themselves. We leave you with the memories of England’s loss to Portugal in the penalty shoot out at World Cup 2006, when Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, both regular penalty takers for their clubs let their country down.

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