Friday, 20 June 2014

On The Brink

FIFA World Cup, 1st Round, Group D: Sao Paulo; Uruguay 2, England 1

As you will have seen above, the bi-annual post mortem of why England just are not good enough to win the World Cup/European Championships has just begun.  While England have gone in with a good but inexperienced attacking line up, they have been fatally undermined by their bad defending.

It happened again tonight.  For most of the first half, they were comfortable without really dominating the match.  The key moment came with six minutes to go until half time (right).  A Uruguay attack worked its way down to England’s right and the PSG forward Edison Cavani crossed in to a free Luiz Suarez – free and completely unmarked – to head past Hart and into the bottom corner.  At that point it looked crucial because England’s (marginal) dominance was not being converted into pressure or chances.

If Uruguay could be almost forgiven for parking the bus in the second half, you’d be much mistaken as Uruguay.  Suarez nearly scored from a corner, while Cavani slid a ball wide of Hart.  Then England stepped up and exherted some pressure.  It didn’t look like England were going to manoeuvre themselves into getting a goal until with 15 minutes to go England equalised.

An England attack down the right saw Johnson cross and Rooney, unmarked, scored his first goal in a World Cup finals.  All England had to do was to hold on for a point and go for a big win against Costa Rica.  Except Luiz Suarez failed to read the script.

A goal kick was flicked on by Gerrard, challenging Cavani for the ball and the ball fell behind the hapless Jagielka into the gambling Suarez who from a tight angle smashed the ball into the net.  He might have been only 75-80% fit but Suarez game intelligence has bagged him two goals in this game, as he managed to escape his marker (Cahill) both times.  The second goal in particular was a poachers goal.

So what has gone wrong for England…  this time?  A ramrod refusal to learn lessons does not help, though this time I’m not sure how much blame you can give to Hodgeson.  Maybe England’s poor defence is down to his coaching though if you think about it the English Premier League is rather thin on the ground with world class defenders.  Indeed it’s rather lacking in world class English footballers full stop.  And with the announcement of the fixture list for next seasons English Premier League yesterday, it’s still very clear that the England national team is still a poor second to the EPL in terms of exposure and importance.  The fact that the European Championships and the World Cup are shown, not on Pay TV channels like BSkyB (or BT Sport), but on the terrestrial channels is possibly something of a conflict of interest for the Murdoch papers.

The original rationale of the English Premier League was to improve the England national team.  Of course, what we now realise was that this was rubbish.  At least the top Scottish teams when they set up the SPL in 1998 were openly greedy for the television money.  The English teams were after the television money and the English FA were also happy to go along as long as it politically harmed the English Football League.  With every tournament that goes by, the England national team more and more resembles the British public’s view on British Tennis players of 20 years ago – something must be done to bring through British Tennis Players even though we are only interested in British Tennis players for two weeks in June & July.  The English public are only really interested in the health of their national team at the finals of every International competition.

While it’s true that England recently won their first youth tournament (the European Under 19’s championships) – those players have a long way to go until they break through.  Of Scotland’s successes at youth level, a couple of players (Brian O’Neil & Paul Dickov) came through from the team that reached the World Cup final at under 16 level in 1989, while 8 years ago the Scotland side that lost in the final of the European under 19’s championships has seen Lee Wallace, Robert Snodgrass, Graeme Dorrans & Stephen Fletcher reach the full Scotland national team.  Lets not forget that while England now have their training facility at St Georges Park, their coaching development is still light years behind even the SFA’s coaching courses at Largs that have seen many Scottish managers graduate, as well as Bobby Robson’s former translator – you might have heard of Jose Mourinio…

Once again England have been shown to be not good enough.  For as long as an unreformed English Premier League continues to spend money on ready made foreign players to the detriment of English players, then the development of young English players will continue to be hindered.  The chairman of the English FA’s target of winning this trophy in 2022 looks more pie in the sky than ever.

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