With England having qualified for the 2010 World Cup, the newspapers have been full of optimism and praise for Fabio Capello’s team. Basically the press and the general public believe England will win the World Cup and have come up with all kinds of reasons why they will succeed, from the reasonable (good wins in qualifying) to the ridiculous (one newspaper sais England will win because it will be cold in South Africa and that will favour them (though strangely not Norway, Russia, USA or any other country where it is much colder than England in the winter!)
I’m a Wales fan and I’m always amused by this blind optimism and how quickly it all comes crashing down. Here’s my list of ten reasons why England won’t win the 2010 World Cup.
Robert Green, Ben Foster, David James and Paul Robinson are all in the mix for England. Who is the obvious number one though? Nobody. All four have a legitimate claim to the number one spot but all four have the same problem. When they’re bad, they’re astonishingly bad. Robert Green is the current number one but he is nowhere near as good as a Buffon or Casillas or any other elite keeper.
2) Central Defensive Frailties
England concedes way too many soft goals. Their defensive record under Capello,who is known for his defensive strategies, is pretty poor. There is not enough pace in the middle of defence, with John Terry looking increasingly susceptible and giving away fouls on a regular basis. Rio Ferdinand has lost a step and Matthew Upson is not quick either. Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka have not yet adjusted to international level and have made mistakes so far.
Fabio Capello’s system is one target man and one goalscorer up front. Currently, Wayne Rooney is that goalscorer. However, if he goes on one of his ice-cold spells in front of goal or if he loses his temper and picks up a suspension, then goal scoring duties will fall to Jermain Defoe, another streaky scoring player or Peter Crouch who cannot be relied upon for goals and Gabriel Agbonlahor is unproven at this level. With Michael Owen completely out of the frame at the moment, England are very light up front.
4) Emile Heskey
Let’s recap the last few years of Heskey’s career. Liverpool sold him because he did not score enough goals, to Birmingham. He didn’t score too many goals there and lost his place in the England side. He then went to Wigan, where he scored even fewer goals, but somehow got his international place back. He moved to Villa and has managed one goal so far. He is currently behind Gabby Agbonlahor and John Carew in the Villa pecking order, but starts every England game. Capello likes Heskey and even if Heskey is not fit, he still picks a Heskey-like player in Carlton Cole, another striker who doesn’t score enough. Going on this trend of picking strikers who can’t score, Bobby Zamora must be waiting for his phone to ring!
5) Premier League
The EPL is not, as most people here in England insist it is, the best league in the world. It is probably the fastest-paced and most exciting, with both teams moving the ball about quickly, without sustained periods of possession. Therein lies the problem for England. The fast-paced nature of the league means that ball retention is not all that important. If you lose the ball then there’s a good chance your team will win it back within 30 seconds. At international level, you lose possession it could be minutes before you have it again. Remember how easily Spain passed England off the park not so long ago? England’s passing is not good enough to trouble the top teams and they will come unstuck once again.
I love penalty shoot-outs. I think it’s a superb way to end a game. It’s a way of providing the game with a winner but also a dignified loss to the other side. England are normally useless when it comes to penalties and don’t bank on them being any better next summer. I don’t know if it is psychological but England always seem to fall apart in a shootout and it always seems that some of the star players are reluctant to put themselves forward to take a penalty, leaving the duties to a player you wouldn’t expect, i.e. Jamie Carragher, Gareth Southgate, David Batty.
7) English Media and Public
The media hype England up to a point where the general public believe that all England have to do to win is turn up. They think just because they have won it once, they have some kind of right to win it again. I was listening to a radio phone-in and the presenter actually used the sentence “When England win the World Cup...”. That attitude permeates into the players, despite the fact that Fabio Capello will do a better job than Sven-Goran Eriksson of not letting the squad believe their own hype. Also, the fear of failure will hang heavily on the players. If you watch England play they are very tentative as they are afraid that any mistake they make will be set upon by the press. Also, the players have to be worried about the backlash if they fail again. Remeber the rough ride Frank Lampard had to endure after his poor World Cup in 2006?
8) Gerrard or Lampard?
That is the question that England has been asking for years. In an ideal world, both would play side-by-side. However, they have not really worked well together and to accommodate both in the same team, Lampard has the middle, with Gareth Barry and Steven Gerrard has been deployed on the left, which is not his natural position, despite him doing a good job. Aaron Lennon or Theo Walcott will play on the right and Ashley Young should play on the left. That means England may have to finally decide between the two.
9) David Beckham
Let’s be honest, this guy should not be in the team. He plays, sort of, in a league where the standard is nowhere near high enough, (sorry MLS fans) to keep other players out of the team. He has never been quick and his passing has diminished. He is only a substitute now (don’t get me started on him closing in on Peter Shilton’s England cap record whilst only playing 5 minutes a game), and who would you rather put on with a few minutes to go, in order to try and change the game, Beckham or a one of Theo Walcott or Shaun Wright-Phillips? I know which one tired defenders would rather face.
10) There are other teams you know...
People in England seem to forget, there are many other teams, better teams, in the World Cup. Spain are an excellent side and have the best midfield and forward line in the world. Brazil are always a force to be reckoned with and Holland are very strong, provided they don’t implode. Never count Germany out when it comes to a major tournament and if Argentina qualifies, they will be strong too.