Earlier this season I posted a piece on why I believed England could not and would not win the World Cup. This was just after England had secured qualification and the nation’s media was in one of it’s usual ‘all we have to do to win is turn up’ moods.
Since then however, the mood of optimism has been dampened a little, though the expectation on the team is very high. There’s been a captaincy change, the chairman of the FA allegedly accusing other countries of conspiring to bribe referees and very, very lacklustre performances on the pitch.
Add to that the injury to David Beckham (I’m still not convinced that actually hurts England), with question marks over the fitness of other key players and things have started to go a bit awry for England. I’m even more convinced now than I was when I wrote my original post, that England cannot win.
I predicted at the start of this year that England will lose in the Quarter-finals and I still stand by that. I also believe that the USA has an excellent chance of catching England cold in that game and winning, which as a Wales fan I would find very funny, but not surprising.
So here’s my updated 11 reasons why England won’t win the World Cup:
Robert Green, David James and Joe Hart are all in the England squad. Who is the obvious number one though? None of them. All have a legitimate claim to the number one spot but only Green and James have notable experience at international level.. Green has had a pretty poor season and James was his usual solid self, but is still mistake-prone. Joe Hart had the best season out of all the English keepers but wasn’t tried at international level until it was too late for him to be properly assessed at this level and it would be a huge risk to start him. Robert Green is the likely number one, but he is nowhere near as good as a Buffon or Casillas or any other elite keeper, and that may prove costly to England.
2) Central Defensive Frailties
England concedes way too many soft goals. Their defensive record under Capello,who is known for his defensive strategies, is actually 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 been plagued by back problems and has missed a lot of games.Matthew Upson has been in poor form all season. Jamie Carragher has been brought out of self-imposed exile and the other central defender to make the squad is Tottenham’s Ledley King, a man who’s knees are so shot he can’t train properly. King was run ragged by the Mexican forwards in a recent game. One thing all the English centre-backs lack is pace, which is a worry when getting late into the tournament.
Fabio Capello’s ideal system is one target man and one goalscorer up front. Currently, Wayne Rooney is that goalscorer. However, his excellent form has tailed off somewhat and there is a worry he’s entered one of his cold spells. There is also the chance of Rooney losing his temper and picking 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 consistently. Darren Bent has blown his chance after a poor performance against Japan so I’m still unconvinced England have the required firepower to win the World Cup.
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 to score even less. He is currently behind Gabby Agbonlahor and John Carew in the Villa pecking order, but still plays in most England games. Capello likes Heskey and Rooney also likes playing alongside him, indeed Rooney’s record with Heskey is much better than without him, so expect Heskey to play a huge part for England, and that’s not a good thing.
5) The 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 divine right to win it again (does that mean Uruguay have twice as much right to win it than England?). 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, for a whole host of reasons, but are both such good players England want 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. Personally, I think England would be better off playing Gerrard just behind Rooney, but Capello doesn’t like that formation. Barry is desperately trying to shake off an injury and Michael Carrick’s form has deserted him at precisciely the wrong time. Aaron Lennon will play on the right with Shaun Wright-Phillips backing him up. It’ll be interesting how Joe Cole will be utilised as he is probably the one genuine flair player England possess. He may be used as a substitute to try and turn a game around rather than be given a starting role, which seems a bit of a waste of his talents.
Let’s be honest, quite a lot of the England team are a bit banged up, or at least have been banged up. Glen Johnson, Aaron Lennon and Ashley Cole are only recently back from major injuries, though both look okay. There are still whispers that Wayne Rooney is carrying a groin strain which is hampering his performances. Ledley King’s knees are shot and Rio Ferdinand has been battling back trouble all season. When you ake a few key players out, the England squad looks very weak.
One thing you hear commentators in England say all the time is that they have to play at a high tempo in order to succeed. I think that England already play at a high enough tempo. What they cannot do is play at a low tempo, holding onto possession and moving the ball and defenders around. Against Mexico, one team got the ball down on the floor, was able to move it about quickly or slowly, had attackers making runs and pulling the defense all over the place and looked dangerous consistently. That team was Mexico.
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 can get their act together, they will be strong too just because of the wealth of talent they possess
Something England fans should be very worried about is that under Capello England have lost every game, convincingly, that they’ve played against the elite nations of the world, except for Croatia and the Netherlands. It must be worrying how easily Spain, Fance and Brazil won.