Looking back at the World Cup

And so the World Cup is now a fading memory and, let’s face it, it was a bit disappointing wasn’t it? For a number of reasons, it really didn’t sparkle, and not just because the English and French let us down.
FIFA spoilt the competition with the ball. Why on earth did they introduce such a different ball in their flagship competition? While I’m sure that every player there would have go the hang of it eventually (ok, maybe not Robert Green), where were all the spectacular long-shots or free kicks? How many freak, wildly swerving goals were there? Madness, utter madness which ruined the spectacle.
And then England. Oh we had such hopes, such expectations! This time, this time we had the players, the coach, the winning mentality and, best of all, we thought the Germans would be rubbish. Oops.
Were they tired? That was the official excuse, after all. Nonsense, don’t insult us with that. Many of the Germans and Brazilians played at least as many games.
Were they motivated? Well, we all saw the videos made by the chaps in Afghanistan willing them to win it and, if that that wasn’t motivation enough, they didn’t deserve to be there.
So, was it Capello’s fault? Partly, I think. True, his chosen formation was archaic and too rigid, and his decisions not to take Walcott was inexcusable. What worried me more was that he had no plan B. When it wasn’t working (ie all the time) he could only bring on like-for-like replacements. But, worryingly, I think Capello’s problem was deeper than that. Far deeper. Capello’s credibility and track record are outstanding, so I’m not convinced he would have chosen that formation without a reason. And that reason is that our players are simply not good enough to play the modern, free-flowing, passing game.
But surely, some of them are “world class”? Really, who says? If anything good comes out of England’s appalling showing, it has to be that English football is rotten. To the very core.
Let’s start at the top. Uniquely, as far as I can tell, English football is run by three organisations: The FA, the Premier League and the Football League. So, who is in charge? Someone recently described the FA as “unfit for purpose” and he may have a point. The top clubs are foreign owned and rather suspect that their business plans are simply to make as much money as possible (ok, nothing wrong with that) and win the Champions League at any cost.
While watching one of the early games involving Honduras, I was intrigued by a late Honduran substitute. So mediocre was he that I can’t remember his name, but the commentator announced, without any hint of incredulity, that he’d just signed for Wigan. What? Why would Wigan buy an unheard of Honduran substitute? There can only be three explanations:
  1. This Honduran substitute is a better player than any home-grown talent Wigan can either buy or develop from their own academy.
  2. He is cheaper than any home-grown talent
  3. The stakes are so high that Wigan dare not bring young talent through the ranks. Far better to buy mediocre, experienced journeyman from abroad.
Wow. In fact, I think all three of those are true. I’m convinced that there are some great, young English players out there, but top clubs only play them in the League Cup. Look at Walcott and Wilshire at Arsenal, Sturridge at Chelsea etc. Last summer, Germany beat England in the final of the European Under 21s. Five members of that German team played in the World Cup. Want to guess how many of the England team did? Not one of them even made the squad.
But, the fact remains that our top players simply do not measure up against the Germans, Spanish or Brazilians. Think about it – how may of our top players play in the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga? None. They are just not as good as we thought they were.
But, think about this: how many of the really top players of the World Cup play in the Premier League? Very, very few, and those who we consider as Galacticos here – Fabregas, Torres, Drogba – either spent most of the competition keeping the bench warm or were hugely disappointing.
Look, it’s simple. England will never do well in competitions while the development of young players and coaches is so poor. The fact that we couldn’t find a competent national coach is a tragic indictment of the state of English football. While the top teams are allowed to buy young talent just for the minor competitions and play entire teams of foreigners, young players will not develop into true world-class players.
The short term solution? Well, Gerrard, Rooney et al proved they weren’t up to the task, so they’ve had their chance. Build a new young team around Walcott, Wilshire, Johnson, Agbonlahor, Bale, Hart etc. Forget the 2012 European Championships, we won’t qualify for them, build a new team for 2014.

A propos du Coupe du Monde

Yay, it’s nearly World Cup time!
I love the World Cup. I love that there are games every evening and I love the way the country seems to remember that it is a country. I love the way we’re proud to be English rather than British and that we can be smug (but in a very repressed, English way) that we’re there and the others aren’t.
And we’ll fly the cross and wear our t-shirts and dream that this time, just maybe, we won’t lose on penalties.
But I have a problem. Not a big one and, if I’m honest, it’s a nice problem to have. You see, I am very proud to be Anglo-French. It means I can be English in England and French when I’m in France (sadly, not often enough). It means I have two teams to support and thus twice the chances of winning. For me, you see, it’s only been twelve years rather than forty-four, and that’s great.
It doesn’t happen often, and it may not happen this time, but if both win their groups and round-of-sixteen games, wanna guess what happens in the quarter finals? Yep.
Actually, the reality is much more simple. I live here. I follow the English game and can name my own choice of starting line-up (which, Mr Capello, if you happen to read this, you should take note of). If I’m honest, while I can pretty much name the ’98 winning side, I know very few of the current French team. So I promise to sing both God Save the Queen and La Marseillaise and then get behind the English.
It’s even possible that they’ll meet in the final, so I couldn’t really lose. Great.