England’s World Cup – Reviewed
After playing their final game of this year’s Brazilian World Cup in the “dead rubber” tie against Costa Rica, England will now head back home to their families and turn their attention to the Euro’s in 2016 instead. Roy Hodgson said there were positives to take from England’s 0-0 draw with group-topping Costa Rica having played 9 World Cup debutants in the starting line-up and looking the more likely team to win the match. But many people find it hard to take comfort from finishing bottom of the group with just one-point, and saw last night as an opportunity to at least give fans something to cheer about against a team who had already qualified and whose primary aim was to just come through the match without any injuries or suspensions.
The game was played in Belo Horizonte which is the city where England played out one of their most famous defeats in 1950, a 1-0 loss to a USA team who weren’t even a professional side back then. So you’d have thought that this game did hold some sentimental value, especially considering the team have only rewarded their fans with 5 goals in the last 8 World Cup matches. Despite this, the team bowed out with a whimper and it raises the same old questions of why can’t England perform on the big stage, even though they can boast some of the highest profile players on the planet? It is probably more concerning that we will almost certainly enter the next tournaments without stalwarts such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who seem to hold our vastly inexperienced side together.
It wasn’t just England that have suffered a surprise exit though, Italy joined us yesterday after an unexpected loss to Uruguay. This makes it a hat-trick of big name European sides to be dumped out at the group stage, after Spain were first eliminated in their group. This should surely raise questions about how the climate has affected the performance of teams from faraway regions. Greece and the Netherlands have qualified from their groups, but the 6 other teams to progress so far have all come from either Central or South America. Could the humid conditions in Brazil have made the difference? Some pundits have argued that the South American’s natural acclimatisation has allowed them to press teams harder both attacking and defensive wise, suggesting a physical advantage over teams from the northern hemisphere for example. Of course, it can be argued that technical ability should still prevail to some degree and therefore it isn’t an excuse for the under performing Europeans who can field some of the best club-players in the world, but it’s clear that this argument goes some way to explaining the surprise packages of the tournament so far with Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia impressing despite their underdog statuses.
The surprise teams at this World Cup have thus far been South American or from the CONCAF Central American region (below)
Refreshingly, Roy Hodgson hasn’t faced too much of a backlash from the English press in the wake of their early flight home and fans actually held up placards to support their manager in the final game, even though the facts will state this is one of England’s worst ever performances on the big stage. But it could be argued that it was largely out of Roy’s control anyway, because it was hardly the most formidable England side to travel to a World Cup, the back four always looked to be a weak link having been given the tall-order of replacing the likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ashley Cole, who together formed the spine of the side for nearly a decade. This time England’s fortunes rested on the shoulders of players like Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana (along with others) who had literally no experience at that level prior to the tournament, but were still expected to make a difference. One positive is that this young team will probably improve from this experience, meaning there’s no way they can perform as badly as this again, can they?
The grass root foundations of our game are often blamed for our bad showing at major tournaments, with people saying “we don’t coach kids the right way” or “we don’t have the right structure to nurture talent” and it all becomes quite a bore to hear time and time again. The fact is, we have been shown up by teams like Brazil, Costa Rica and Uruguay, who have barely any “structure” to their youth set up at all. Many of their best talents have spent their childhood playing in near-enough-poverty, but have still progressed to the top level without the top facilities. It is fair to say though; the heavy foreign contingent in the Premier League must have some effect on developing our talent, as there is a limited opportunity for young English players to compete for starting places with expensive and talented overseas recruits filling the majority of squads in the Premier League.
Whatever your opinion is, most will now agree it is time to build a team which is ready to challenge at the next major tournament in France for Euro 2016, because the showing in Brazil suggests we are a long way off having the credentials to be competitive at that either.
Who to support now though?
The World Cup only comes around once every 4 years and the real exciting stages of the tournament are yet to come. So with no England left to support, most of us are probably searching for a distant relative who belongs to a more promising nation. Here are some teams you might want to consider if you can’t find any:
Holland: The Dutch have a reputation as a friendly nation and apart from being geographically close to us in England, they have a number of players who ply their trade in the Premier League, even their manager will from next season! Robin Van Persie, Ron Vlaar, Tim Krul, Jonathan De Guzman and Leroy Fer join ex-PL players such as Robben and De Jong to make up a familiar looking line-up to British football fans.
No team has more players over in our league than Belgium though, who were most peoples “dark horses” going into the tournament, they are also one of the European teams which seem to have defied the under-performing trend and won 2 games from 2.
Who do you think will step into the shoes of Messrs Gerrard, Lampard and co. for the next era? And more importantly (for now) who is going to win the World Cup in Brazil?
What did you think of this post?
Not for me!