Monday, 25 June 2012

England - is hard work enough?

After being knocked out of Euro 2012 by a dominant Italian team who somehow failed to score a sackful, the usual post-tournament fan and media debrief now begins.  Losing on penalties has allowed the media to pull out the 'unlucky England' headlines, but let's be honest - if the score after 90 minutes had been 3-0 Italy then nobody could have complained.

There are positives.  Its actually quite hard to despise this England team compared to the one that shamefully underperformed in South Africa, and Roy Hodgson has at the very least got them looking like they don't hate each other and aren't terrified of being seen in public.  Some of the youngsters will undoubtedly learn a huge amount from this experience.

But its impossible to avoid the elephant in the room, which is the sheer lack of technical ability that England's so called 'world class' players possess.  It might be acceptable for Albania to try and hang on for penalties from the 30 minute mark onwards, but genuinely classy teams such as Germany, Spain and Portugal must surely be maintaining a polite silence while they wonder how we in England have the audacity to consider ourselves to be of that calibre.

The main plaudit given to England is that they are 'hardworking', and this is undoubtedly true.  The team most definitely did work their socks off during their four matches, and this dogged determination was a factor in getting out of the group.  But surely for 'world class' players, working hard for the whole match should be a given, not a laudible attribute.

Ultimately, England flattered to deceive in every single match, and saw uncharacteristically good fortune in the group stages as all three opponents missed numerous gilt-edged chances.  The 'shots' statistics alone show how much pressure England's goal sustained and is indicative of the balance of play:

England 3 shots - France 19 shots
England 15 shots - Sweden 12 shots
England 9 shots - Ukraine 16 shots
England 9 shots - Italy 35 shots

Even the mighty Ukraine, albeit on home soil, were able to press England back and the boys in white were unable to control the ball for more than a few passes in any of their outings, instead relying on counter attacking football.  As the Italy match clearly demonstrated, such tactics fail as soon as quality opposition is faced.

The sad conclusion is that the solution to England's repeated tournament disappointment doesn't lie with the current squad, and it doesn't lie with the Under 21's.  It lies with the little babies currently gurgling away and unaware of what a football even is.  The way in which the next generation is taught to play is the key to England finally being able to live up to the lofty titles we aspire to, and that is something that needs to be acted upon immediately.

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