England’s abiding football weakness

It seemed to me, from last weekend’s match against Ecudor that England are slowly putting together reasonable performances, and may yet surprise some of their critics. But this guy, Chris Dillow, has an interesting angle on a classic weakness of almost every England team since 1966: conglomerate discount. Confused? Read on for why Frank Lampard has had more shots on goal than any other player. And why it’s not working. Thanks for the heads up to Paul.

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  • pith

    Fortunately the FA has managed to secure the services of the Middlesbrough manager for the next few years. That should bring a few triangular tournament trophies in.

  • Rory

    Well nothing new there then. That’s pretty much the jist of the after-match analysis in the pub and has been the constant criticism of the team’s structure and (lack of) strategy for some time – albeit without the management-speak analogy.

    “Contrast the static England team to the fluid movement of Arsenal”.

    Aaahh! Sweet memory. Roll on autumn.

  • smcgiff

    Funny, but I was thinking the same the other day that England were less than the sum of their parts – Didn’t have the fancy name for it though. The contrast I would obviously put forward is the Irish team, which always seems to have a team greater than the sum of its parts. Greece winning the Euro is probably a better example though.

  • smcgiff

    Sorry to have lowered the tone – Should have said ‘conglomerate premium’ when describing Ireland and Greece!

  • Garibaldy

    This sounds plausible. Equally, the England team could be a bunch of overhyped morons whose reputations are built on playing in teams filled with better foreign players in a weak domestic league.

    The truth is that if Gerrard and Lampard were world class, they’d be able to play successfully together. Robinson is clearly not a good keeper. Terry has been exposed by playing against different styles, and Ferdinand was never worth the money paid for him in the first place. Crouch belongs in a Sunday team until he learns how to head a ball, and watching some videos of Niall Quinn might teach him how to hold the ball up. Joe Cole’s wonder goal was due to bad goalkeeping. Gerrard has done quite well sometimes, but the fact is that Beckham, for all the calls for him to be dropped, has been keeping them afloat with vital contributions. Ashley Cole has also done well, and Rooney looks sharp, but 3 or 4 players do not a good team make.

  • pith

    Anybody know where I can get some Niall Quinn videos? I was in Woolworths but they had obviously sold out.

  • DK

    “a weak domestic league” Wise up – this is the league that got teams into the 2 top european cup finals.

    The problem with England is that the players aren’t as motivated by the idea of playing for their country as other nations. The other example of this is Spain, where the team is theoretically excellent, but usually flounders. Note that these are the two countries with the strongest domestic leagues in Europe – possibly the players are too focussed on their clubs to get worked up enough for their country.

    This is a big a factor as conglomerate discountism (sp?).

  • Garibaldy

    Dk,

    Look at the English record over say the last decade and compare it to Spain and Italy. Rubbish. Same goes for where the best players in the world chose to play. Except for Ballack, and with the possible exception of Svenchenko, who has looked rubbish in the World Cup, who was the last world star to come to England at the top of their game? And only when Chelsea can pay outrageous sums in wages.

    As for the idea English teams aren’t motivated by playing for their country, have to say I heartily disagree. Watching them belt out the anthem and the way they talk about it, I really don’t see how you can say this. The vast majority of them are little different than the average 2 World Wars and One World Cup, England is the greatest country in the world fan. They’re just not as great as Sky and the rest of the British media would have us believe.

    Pith,

    I hold my hands up in abject surrender.

  • DK

    “Look at the English record over say the last decade and compare it to Spain and Italy. Rubbish.”

    OK, I did. Winners of Euopean Cup in last 10 years: Spain = 4, England = 2, Germany = 2, Italy = 1, Portugal = 1.

    But why not find out from UEFA? They use a country co-efficient to determine which country has the most club slots in competitions. England are higher than either Spain or Italy; second only to Holland.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UEFA_coefficients

    So, I repeat again that the domestic league is very strong. However, this has not translated to the national team, which is not bad, but not the best in Europe.

  • DK

    Oops – I looked at the wrong table. For clubs, Spain, Italy and then England are the top countries, getting 4 slots each. Still indicates a strong domestic league

  • Martin

    Garibalby, although I agree wholeheartedly that the English team and leagues can be overhyped by our media, I think that the English record against Spain and Italy compares very favourably over the last 10 years.

    Spain have never made it past the quarters in a World Cup and were knocked out by England in Euro ’96 (when England reached the Semis) and France in 2000 at the quarter finals in both cases and they didn’t make it through the group stage in 2004.

    Against Italy too, England went out at the same stage as Italy in 1998 (having qualified for the tournament in the same group ahead of them) and went a stage further than Italy in 2002. Our European Championship form is worse against Italy in this period, admittedly, but hardly by enough to render us “rubbish”.

    In terms of Champions League wins, I make it Spain 4, England 2 and Italy 1 in the same period.

    Your point just doesn’t add up. Why do you say this? Liktening to too much of the rabidly Anglophobic commentary on RTE no doubt…

  • Garibaldy

    Before I admit defeat, what are the figures not for wins, but for the presence of teams in the quarter and semi-finals. I know Chelsea keep reaching the semis and that there has been an English team in the champions league final the past two years, but what about this. There’s also a similar question to be asked of the UEFA cup.
    Martin, I was referring to the leagues rather than the international team. I acutally think Eriksson has done consistently well with a limited pool of talent. A quite good first 11 in relative terms, but little strength in depth.
    Alas, no free state tv for me on the football front. I say this because I’ve had to put up with the nonsense from the English media and public about English football.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Garabaldi.

    I would hate for you to be my manager, you’d tear me to pieces;¬)

    I am absolutely astounded that even the decent English players, Gerard,Lampard,Terry have yet to shine. I think Rooney has an excuse, Joe Cole, is boiling away nicely. The rest are average in the extreme. There is no getting away from attacking the easy target, the leadership so obviously isnt there!!!

    Can’t wait for them to get humped soon. Strangely watching the media trying to be upbeat, is almost as fun as watching and waiting for them to get put to the sword.

  • Martin

    Well, I haven’t checked the stats, but over the last 10 years there has been an English team that isn’t Chelsea in the Semis at least 6 times. Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool in 1999, 2005 and 2006 obviously. Then there was Leeds in 2001. Man U also reached the Semis in 1997 and 2002. So I still don’t think your point stacks up as over half the Champions League Semis over the last decade have featured English clubs.

    I still think your point is not really based in anything but traditional Irish Anglophobia.

  • Garibaldy

    This is a comparative not an absolute argument, i.e. if more Italian and Spanish teams are reaching quarters, semis and finals in both European competitions more consistently than the English. Also I note no-one has answered the point about why so few top class players at the height of their careers have moved to England.
    As for UEFA’s co-efficients, are they any more reliable than FIFA’s, by which the Yanks are the 5th best in the world?

    The Premiership is a decent league, and may be more enjoyable to watch than foreign leagues (which I find to be the case), but the consistent claims in the English media that it is the best league in the world do not add up. And until many of these English players prove themselves on the international stage, they cannot be regarded as world-class, or anything approaching it. So time for Lampard, Gerrard, Joe Cole, John Terry etc to step up.

  • Never mind lads. If Portugal do the business, we can all relax. Good win by Dublin btw. The Germans are cheering Ghana on on the ABB principle.
    On the one man team: Portugal and Eusebio were one in ’66. He single handledly crushed North Korea like he was playing in road leagues. Pity England went on to win but at least we got the “Two worlds wars and a world cup” chant out of it.

  • kensei

    “Well, I haven’t checked the stats, but over the last 10 years there has been an English team that isn’t Chelsea in the Semis at least 6 times. Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool in 1999, 2005 and 2006 obviously. Then there was Leeds in 2001. Man U also reached the Semis in 1997 and 2002. So I still don’t think your point stacks up as over half the Champions League Semis over the last decade have featured English clubs.”

    Yes, but that’s largely down to being able to call upon some of the best foreign talent.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Garibaldy,
    The ranking system used by FIFA is a nonsense. They look at the teams performance over the last few years, which will usually involve matches with their neighbours in the regional competitions like the qualification for the World Cup and European Championships. The problem arises when they apply a “regional multiplier”. This is to take account of the fact that teams like the U.S. have easier neighbours to play against than do the European teams. But the multipliers are wrong and anyway it’s too simplistic a method.

    The whole thing should be scrapped. The only realistic way it to get a computer to churn through lots of different rankings and settle on the ordering of teams that has the fewest contradictions when compared to the results of the matches. It could easily be done on a regional basis first and then merge the lists together based on the results of matches between teams in different regions. Then you could do things like give more weight to matches in the Finals of competitions or whatever. There’s a lot that could be done, but whatever it is, the current system trying to assign a points score is just nonsense unless we put all 200 countries into a fully round robin league system!

  • Occasional Commentator

    .. adding to my comment a few minutes ago ..

    In the group stages of the current World Cup, every match between a CONCACAF team (the U.S. and it’s neighbours) and a UEFA team (Europe) ended in a European win except for two draws. Unless I’ve missed some match that is.

    Anyway, this makes it pretty daft that the US and Mexico are in 4th and 5th in the rankings with only two European teams above them. If the best CONCACAF usually lose when playing UEFA teams, then surely the CONCACAF teams should be below at least half of the UEFA teams

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFA_World_Rankings

  • Martin

    Kensei, yes, the English clubs were able to draw upon some of the best foreign talent. So were the Spanish clubs and every other club in post-Bosman Europe. Real Madrid, Europe’s most successful team in the last 10 years (and at least joint richest club) had a self confessed policy of signing the best attacking players from around the world until very recently.

    You also argue against Garibaldi’s point. Garibaldi says English clubs can’t attract the best foreign talent whereas you say English success in the Champions League is because of it.

    You can’t both be right. If Garibaldy is correct, and the English clubs can’t attract foreign talent, the success I described in my earlier post is due to domestic players, so Kensei is wrong.

    On the other hand, if Kensei is right then it is because the best foriegn players come to England, thereby negating Garibaldy’s points. So guys, which is it?

    Irish Anglophobia cracks me up sometimes. Can’t even resist self-contradiction in order to beat up anything and everything English.

  • Ringo

    Spain, England and Italy all suffer from the same problem – they pick their international team based on fickle performances in their domestic leagues, broadcast to the baying masses every weekend. It is the form and class argument, and the end result is there for all to see.

    Just because some show-pony like Joe Cole finally manages to get his finger out of his arse and have a reasonably good season (by his own underwhelming standards) on Match of the Day – there is unbearable pressure to have in included in the side.

    Brazil have more footballers playing at the top level than any country in the world but they don’t pick the team based on form. Every dog has its day, and they’d have a different 11 out every game if they adopted the approach that England do. The good/great French side virtually picked itself for the best part of a decade. Regardless what David Ginola, Cantona or Nicholas Anelka did, they weren’t getting a call-up, as it would have upset the team structure. England don’t have such thing, and it shows. Same with the Dutch. Spain have chopped and changed down through the years but Aragones appears to have a settled 11 this time.

  • Radishchev

    Kensei,

    “… being able to call upon some of the best foreign talent”

    Martin’s made my point for me – how many of Barca’s winning side were Catalans?

    Garibaldy,

    Something that tends to get overlooked in the argument on foreign talent in the Premiership is the money-work ratio. The Premiership is larger than its other rivals so more games. It is also percieved as a “tougher” league (i.e. more physical). If I’m Overpaid Footballer X (if only), I think I’d rather play in a shorter league for the same amount of money and not have to go to Bolton in the League or Grimsby in the Cup on a midweek night.

    Top players who stayed in the PL at their height:
    Henry (recently) or Bergkamp
    Giggs or Scholes (usually mentioned by fellow pros, like Zidane, as getting into most sides in Europe)
    Gerrard (much as you don’t rate him) or Alonso

    Martin,

    I can’t see where you’re getting the Anglophobia thing from – Garibaldy’s points are largely spot-on about England thus far.

  • Radishchev

    Ringo,

    The problem with sticking to a structure is that form is vitally important for the vast majority of players. Brazil have looked largely poor so far and it was only when Parreira wised up and dropped Adriano (due to his form) that Robinho got a start. Result: livelier performance up front and four goals.

    Aragones did something similar with Raul, again based on his domestic form, and it has resulted in some excellent performances from Torres and Villa.

    I can see an argument for keeping some players on the pitch, regardless of form, because they can do something magical in the 91st minute to win a match, but you can count those players on one hand. Beckham, for all the value of that freekick goal, is not fully justifying his place at the minute. At least he’s not alone.

  • Martin

    The Anglophobia is demonstrated by one Irish commentator (Kensei) criticising England for having too many foreign players, another (Garibaldy) for having too few, all the’re points have in common (along with virtually all Irish commentators) is the fact they used to blast England.

    You guys take any viewpoint about English sport in particular and immediately turn it into a criticism. Kensei by implitly stating that the English teams success is due to foreigners, Garibaldy by suggesting can’t attract foreign talent. Either point may have objective merit but it seems that no point about England on this board may be made without including a subjective prod at the neighbours.

    The best one was a couple of weeks ago where a commentator suggested that a scandal at a Dublin maternity hospital in the 50’s was down to English Common Law.

  • Radishchev

    Martin,

    Blasting England and the Premiership is hardly the preserve of Irish or indeed any foreign commentators. Nothing said in either of the two posts mentioned hasn’t already been raised in the British media over the last twenty years as, it should be noted, it has in the Spanish and Italian media about their respective teams as well.

  • Keith M

    Spot on martin, the amount of blatant anglophobia displayed on this blog is truely frightening. However if you look at RTE’s biased coverage of the WC you can see where some people get it from.

    The idea that the English Premier League is not one of the top three of four leagues in the world is ninsense. The UEFA co-efficients (FAR more reliable than the FIFA rankings) prove it and the number of trophies win proves it. If you want further proof look at the Top 10 fooballers in the World in 2005 (based on the judgement of international m,anagers/coaches).

    1. Ronaldo de Assis “RONALDINHO” (Brazil)
    2. Frank LAMPARD (England)
    3. Samuel ETO’O (Cameroon)
    4. Thierry HENRY (France)
    5. ADRIANO Ribeiro Leite (Brazil) 6. Andriy SHEVCHENKO (Ukraine)
    7. Steven GERRARD (England) 8. Ricardo Izecson Santos “KAKA” (Brazil)
    9. Paolo MALDINI (Italy) 10. Didier DROGBA (Ivory Coast)

    4 of the 10 played in England, 4 in Italy and 2 in Spain. Next season, 5 of the 10 wiil play in England.

    The English national team is another matter. Nowhere in Europe (apart from Italy) does the press play such an intrusive role in the selection of the national team. Ericsson (like almost all his predecessors) has paid far too much notice of the press.

    England’s problem is this World Cup is down to the squad selection. There was a question over the fitrness on Owen and Rooney. Crouch is not World class, and Walcott is inexperienced. Marcus Bent and Jermaine Dafoe should be in Germany.

    Either way, come Saturday, I’ll be parked in from of the TV., shouthing for ENG-GER-LAND and laughing at the RTE panels with the chips on the shoulder, playing it up for the great unwashed.

  • Garibaldy

    Martin,

    Criticising the overhyped Premiership and overrated English players is not Anglophobia. Secondly, there’s no reason that Kensei and I should agree as we are 2 different individuals with our own view. The point about foreign talent in my view is this: the Premiership has failed to attract the very best players at the top of their form, while attracting quite a lot of good foreign players, who are often better than their English counterparts. This failure to attract the very best suggests that professional footballers, unlike the English media, do not regard the Premiership as even approaching the best league in the world. Pointing this out is not xenophobic, but seeking to explain why the English team is not living up to absurdly inflated expectations. Which, as I see it, after all is the point of the thread judging from the title.

    Radischev,

    I think Henry’s recent performances internationally since 2002 at major championships call the idea that he’s one of the world’s best into question. But he, and Viera, and Bergamp, all came to England having failed in Italy. Now in fairness to the first two they were about 20 but Bergamp wasn’t. He failed miserably at Inter. A brilliant player, and clearly world class – but only because he showed it for Holland time and again, including one of the best world cup goals ever. I’ll grant you Giggs, Scholes, even Gerrard, but there’s cultural factors there, and their not foreign. While I think Alonso is an excellent player, he’s not a superstar, though he might become one.

  • Garibaldy

    Keith,

    That list of the top ten players is ridiculous. Drogba? Do me a favour. Also, and I’ll say it yet again, when Lampard, Gerrard etc do it consistently at international level – rather than against Fulham, Wigan etc every week – then I’ll quite happily say they are world class. This is, I think, what separates them from Beckham. He has consistently done it when England needed it, and thus has to be recognised as a world-class player.

    On the issue of top leagues, we can’t really compare outside Europe but the question of the Argentenian and Brazilian leagues must be injected here. I can’t remember who has won the world club championship, but isn’t it ususally south Americans? The Premiership is the 3rd best league in Europe, though the most entertaining. I doubt it’s better than either of the top two South American leagues.

  • abucs

    i think the English Premiership has been very successful in attracting foreign talent and increasing the standard of football there.

    They’ve done very well, but like so many other things, success in one area causes problems somewhere else.

    I think the depth of eligible English players has dropped, much like the Serie A when it was attracting the great majority of foreign talent, and Italy struggled to find a well balanced national team.

    Does that qualify me as an Anglophone ? :o)

  • kensei

    “On the other hand, if Kensei is right then it is because the best foriegn players come to England, thereby negating Garibaldy’s points. So guys, which is it?”

    O_o What a question.

    Me, obviously. The success of English club sides in Europe is due to the fact thay attract some of best foreign talent. They are therefore able to play a more European style passing game (or even better, succesfully marry it with the more pacy and direct english game), which all the English sides at the top level of European football attempt to do. It also gives them a more creative dimension that they lack.

    This is not a criticism. The foreign players in England undoubtedly add a lot to the league, and have probably helped raise the standard of English
    players over the past decade. As have the foreign managers.

    Anyone who looks at the current England team as World Beaters cannot be watching the same World Cup. Only Ukraine vs Switzerland last night surpassed the nadir of anti-football that England have represented in this tournament. Even English commentators admit they’ve been appalling, and watching the BBC pundits deflate during the tournament has been a sight in itself. If you can’t keep the ball, you can’t win the tournament.

    The crime is that FIFA cannot decalre Mexico the winner of the England-Ecudar match.

  • Radishchev

    Garibaldy,

    I hadn’t spotted the foreign requirement first time around – mea culpa. On Henry and Viera, they didn’t really play enough in Italy to show the sort of form that pushed them and they did that at Arsenal (much as it pains me) at the height of their careers). Bergkamp certainly didn’t do well in Italy, but again did it both at club level and on the highest stage whilst playing in England, which was the original point. Alonso and Fabregas would walk into most Spanish sides, let alone anywhere else in Europe, and they’ll bring a lot to the English game in coming years (again, much as it pains me to say, given who they play for). Spot on about Drogba – he’s a cheating waste of space.

    I seem to have this argument about the ‘best’ league in Europe (never mind the world) every couple of years. I think there’s no real answer, just a matter of taste. ‘The most exciting league’ (at least until tovarishch Abramovich rolled into town) is probably the fairest comment – on grounds of skill and technique, it doesn’t always make for exciting viewing (i.e. Serie A most weeks of the season).

  • Radishchev

    Keith,

    Sven cowed by the press – you’re having a laugh! Your point on the squad selection directly contradicts that – if he had been influenced, Bent or Defoe would have been in and not Walcott. On the proposed system, though, there is more of a case to be made – the diamond, the 4-5-1 experiment, and so on.

  • Keith M

    Garibaldy “That list of the top ten players is ridiculous.” The list is not my list, it was compiled by the managers of the national teams around the World. Since these are people who are paid for their football knowledge, I think I’d prefer to be believe tham rather than you.

    Your point on Bergamp, just proves how English clubs can get the best out of players when the more rigid style in Italian does not allow flair players to shine.

    Radishchev : I take your point on squad selection but as you have said his formations seem to be more than influenced by the press.

  • Garibaldy

    Keith,

    I know it wasn’t your list, but I’d trust it as much as I’d trust the FIFA rankings.

  • Radishchev

    Keith,

    It may be that the moves on formation come from within the camp than from the press – it happened under Robson in 1990 and there were rumours to that effect during qualifying last year.

    On Bergkamp, I would suggest it was the manager Wenger that enabled Bergkamp to flourish, rather than the footballing culture. And, before anyone jumps in, I know it was Rioch who signed him – my point is that Wenger gave him a run in the side and played with a system that gave him a slightly freer role behind the main striker, neither of which was the case in Italy.

  • George

    Keithm,
    I have to disagree with you on Sven. He doesn’t listen to the press.

    What he seems to do is surround himself with a set of players he likes and that’s it.

    He always picked Owen, despite the player being clearly out of form.

    He always picked Beckham and didn’t substitute him at Euro 2004 when he clearly wasn’t fit.

    He continues to play Lampard and Gerrard when it is obvious that the two don’t work together.

    He sticks with Hargreaves (who I think is doing well) despite the press baying for his blood.

    He went to Germany with only four strikers (Ireland went to Italia 90 with seven I think) and one right back – Gary Neville. The press didn’t agree with that.

    Then there’s Walcott. Every press conference, he is asked if he regrets the decision. Every time he says no.

  • Ringo

    Radishchev –

    you only have too look at how players from Ireland or the Scandanavians who are barely getting a look in at club level are more that capable of holding their own and more at international level, as log as they are playing consistently with their country. Richard Dunne wasn’t playing first team football yet he managed to do a job against the likes of Kluivert, Van Nistelroy, Overmars etc… For Trinidad and Tobago, you have your man Sanchos (og aside) from Gillingham striding the world stage like a colossus – an even better your man Chris Birchall – able to do a job against Gerrard and Lampard.

    Unless you’ve a settled side over a matter of years you’ll go nowhere. The smaller nations don’t have the luxury of replacing a misfiring/misbehaving striker with some flavour of the month Ian Dowie-lookalike with a good season behind him like Mad Marco did earlier in the week. They just plug along with what they’ve got and are stronger for it.

    Garibaldy –

    Failures work both ways – Veron was a disaster at both United and Chelsea, yet he was clearly world class. Diego Forlan, couldn’t hit a cows arse with a banjo unless it looked like the gap between Jerzy Dudeks legs – then goes to Spain and fulfils his potential.

  • Ringo

    George –

    I agree with him not listening to the press. But he hasn’t stuck with the same players. He’s in a World Cup quater final and he hasn’t a settled formation, let alone settled first 11.

    He used far to many players in the build up games and never used the time to develop a coherent playing style, and now he’s relying far too much on the individual talents rather than team work to get a goal.

  • Radishchev

    Ringo,

    In each of the cases you mentioned, I’m not sure it’s the fact it’s a settled side. I would point to the fact that the sides are well-drilled at doing one thing and doing it well. Usually, it involves defending strongly and nicking a goal on the break. The problem comes when you face an equally well-drilled side with something a bit different, usually up front or creative in the middle. Case in point – T&T vs. Paraguay, Free State vs. France or Switzerland (in recent years) and, on the domestic front, Liverpool under Houllier. Then the solid side has to change its game and the difference in class usually shows.

    The argument on settled sides means that a team can become stagnant and certain players feel they can get a game, despite bringing little to the side – France at the moment.

  • harpo

    ‘a classic weakness of almost every England team since 1966’

    Why just ‘since 1966’? Surely that should be before, during and since 1966.

    England, for all the pretentions of greatness and/or superiority , have only delivered once at international level – in 1966. And that was done with a very workmanlike team put together by Alf Ramsey. He did what Sven has done – constant indecision before and even during the finals. He went into the finals determined to play a winger in a 4-3-3 formation, and tried 3 different wingers in the 3 group games. And he stuck with Jimmy Greaves as his main striker in those games, even though Greaves didn’t produce.

    It was only after accepting that the winger idea wasn’t working that he went to the famous 4-4-2. And when Greaves wasn’t able to take part in the quarter final due to injury Hurst was introduced – a guy with only 5 caps.

    Thus the Ramsey Robots team was put together – a hard working outfit who were also called wingless wonders. An unglamourous outfit that only looked like a team in the semi-final against Portugal and the final.

    If the 1966 team is viewed as some all-conquering outfit that swept all before them, that view is wrong. They struggled just like this 2006 team and won through hard work.

    Prior to 1966 England had got no further than the quarter-finals and have only got to the semi-finals once since. England are a natural quarter-final level team, with the potential to go further once in a while. That’s what happened in 1966 – they worked their way to a win. Maybe this team can work their way to a win too. Maybe they will suddenly turn it on when faced by an attacking team like Brazil in the semis – that was what happened in 1966 after they had struggled through their first 4 games.

  • English

    Two questions:

    1. Where are the Republic of Ireland this summer?
    2. Where are Northern Ireland this summer?

    You are in a fine position to criticise England who are in the last eight, despite the fact that their two key strikers have struggled with fitness, and now Owen is missing. We have also played two matches in blistering heat which is going to affect your game. Why has nobody mentioned these key factors?

    People try to bring us down, but we might just go all the way!

    COME ON ENGLAND!

  • George

    Ringo,
    the changes Sven brought about were forced.

    He played Carragher because Neville was injured.
    He rested Gerrard because he was on a yellow card. He dropped Crouch because Rooney was fit to start again.

    English,
    This could turn out to be the worst major tournament in a generation for the English. At least at Italia 90 you had the Cameroon and Germany games, probably the two best at the tournament. Loads of fond memories for your average football fan.

    At Euro 96 you had Gazza (minus the tears) against Scotland, the thumping of Holland and the Germans again. Lots of good memories.

    This time around you have abject matches and all the players saying they don’t care about performances.

    If they go out to Portugal, what will your memories of this World Cup be apart from the Owen injury? I would be interested in hearing your fond memories after four of seven games.

    Unless they deliver in Gelsenkirchen, this England team is a disgrace in my view.

    More fool you for buying into the players and their “we don’t care if we win seven games 1-0” line.

    And if they don’t? They’ll sit at home with their 100k laughing while you wonder why you wasted four weeks of your life fretting about these bozos who don’t even let people watch them train.

  • The People’s Front of Judea

    DK
    “The problem with England is that the players aren’t as motivated by the idea of playing for their country as other nations. The other example of this is Spain, where the team is theoretically excellent, but usually flounders. Note that these are the two countries with the strongest domestic leagues in Europe – possibly the players are too focussed on their clubs to get worked up enough for their country.”

    That’s a novel view of Spain’s inability to translate individual brilliance into team success.

    Are you Andy Townsend in disguise?

  • harpo

    ‘This could turn out to be the worst major tournament in a generation for the English.’
    George:

    You seem to have an odd definition of good/bad or best/worst.

    Most English fans would settle for ongoing plodding performances aided by own-goals and scrappy goals if England win the World Cup. You seem to think that playing well is what is important, even if it ends in ultimate failure (1990 and 1996).

    Looking back to 1966, after 4 games England were in much the same position as they are today – they have achieved, even if the football has been ugly.

    Which would you prefer to be – a team in the quarter finals of the World Cup, or one that looked pretty on the fieel and played attractively, but was on its way home at this point?

    ‘If they go out to Portugal, what will your memories of this World Cup be apart from the Owen injury?’

    What do memories have to do with it? There are 2 states of being:
    1. winning the whole thing
    2. losing at some point

    Does it really matter how the team plays at any point if they ultimately lose? I don’t think that happy memories of a few attractive games compensate for losing in the end.

  • harpo

    ‘Read on for why Frank Lampard has had more shots on goal than any other player.’

    The article writer is wrong about Lampard. He hasn’t been shooting from unlikely distances where there is little chance of scoring. The ball just isn’t going into the net for him. Most of his chances have been from positions where he normally scores from.

    I don’t think there is any particular reason why he isn’t scoring. Playing for Chelsea these chances go in for him. He scores an unusually high number of goals for a mid-fielder at club level. And he did so during the World Cup qualifying campaign. Maybe this is just his numbers averaging out.

    Gerrard had scored 2 goals, and he usually scores a lot, again as a mid-fielder. For him its business as usual.

    I’d be more concerned about the lack of production from England’s strikers. But maybe this is all part of Sven’s masterplan. To win a tournament with mid-fielders. If you have lots of them who can score goals (and England have Gerrard, Cole and Lampard, and Beckham for set-pieces) then use them, instead of forwards. It’s not conventional, but it might just work.

    People said that Ramsey couldn’t win in 1966 with no wingers, and they were proven to be wrong. Maybe Sven can win with no strikers.

  • English

    George,

    I have great memories already thank you very much, in particular brilliant goals from Cole, Gerrard and Beckham. Winning World Cup matches is a brilliant feeling, it’s as simple as that, I have not bought into anything the players have said.

    The difference this time around is that apart from Argentina (who we have beaten twice in our last two encounters) and Germany (one of which will be eliminated), the opposition doesn’t look the greatest this time around. For starters, at no point have I thought we would lose a game, which I have never had before in this competition. Despite everyone saying (particularly here in Ireland) we are a disgrace!

    I believe that ‘if’ we can overcome Portugal which will be very difficult, we have a better than normal chance of beating Brazil of France in the Semi’s. If I’m honest I would say that we won’t even make the final, but I am more optimistic than in other World Cups I have watched – even though we played better in other tournaments.

    You might be right though!

  • George

    Harpo,
    my point is that England have delivered nothing so far and not only won’t they win the World Cup, they won’t even make a decent stab at it.

    Remember these were the second favourites after Brazil, not some team to make uop the numbers.

    The fact that they are in the quarter-final is neither here nor there. So are Ukraine.

    I fully agree that “most English fans would settle for ongoing plodding performances aided by own-goals and scrappy goals if England win the World Cup”.

    However, I don’t believe that England will win the World Cup playing as they are which will leave English fans with a particularly bad taste in their mouth.

    Here you have the best set of England players in a generation and they are playing total crap. I feel it is doomed to failure.

    I wasn’t on this earth in 1966 so I can’t draw comparisons to then.

    I also agree it is better to have played ugly and be in the quarter-finals than pretty and at home but I see structural weaknesses that won’t be overcome.

    The England players and coaches are preaching a losing mantra in my view. Time will tell if I am right.

    “What do memories have to do with it? There are 2 states of being:
    1. winning the whole thing
    2. losing at some point!

    This isn’t true. You also remember proud moments and if England go out of this tournament without having delivered anything or found their stride then this is the worst kind of losing because they won’t have given their best.

  • George

    English,
    you haven’t played anyone decent yet. Portugal is the litmus test.

    The first 20 minutes against Paraguay I thought England were top class and felt they had a real chance but since then they have got worse and worse.

    This team has the potential to win the World Cup as it is the most open tournament in years but I think they are throwing this chance away.

  • Rory

    I spotted a car in St. Albans, Herts. this morning sporting both the Irish tricolour and the English St George Cross which seemed to proclaim “I’m an Irishman supporting England in this tournament”.

    Should I have praised him for his fair-minded enthusiasm or should I have censored him for breaching the time-honoured “anyone but England” rule?

    Such are the burning dilemnas of the day.

  • abucs

    Harpo, in answer to your question :

    Which would you prefer to be – a team in the quarter finals of the World Cup, or one that looked pretty on the field and played attractively, but was on its way home at this point?

    I would truly go for the attractive option.
    Although i would also be in the minority there.

    It depends on how you view the tournement i guess. For me, it’s entertainment. Teams progress on referee decisions, injuries, suspensions, weather conditions, technology, sports science, luck, organisation as well as player ability.

    My response is just to enjoy it and i wouldn’t want my team to go there representing the country and not play attractively.

    I’m not criticising any country, as it’s not my place to do so in a public forum.

    As far as England go they are still there and they are building as they go. I have seen past English teams look poor until they meet good opposition and then they look much better.

    I think ‘English’ is right, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of quality opposition. Apart from Argentina and Germany (who play eachother) Italy look like their defence will be difficult for anyone to beat. I think England are starting from behind, but they can beat any of the teams that are left. And they can get beat by any of them.

    I think Lampards attacking play has added much to the English prformances so far and they look much more dangerous with Rooney. I think they will need 2 strikers against quality opposition though.

  • Ringo

    Radishchev

    The argument on settled sides means that a team can become stagnant and certain players feel they can get a game, despite bringing little to the side – France at the moment.

    cough, cough… ; )

    I agree with what you are saying regarding a settled playing style being the defining aspect of smaller nations that manage to punch above their weight (and I don’t consider the current ROI side to be either settled or punching above its weight).

    The problem comes when you face an equally well-drilled side with something a bit different, usually up front or creative in the middle.

    Agreed – but my point is that Spain, England and (to a lesser extent)Italy rarely put out a well drilled side, so they have to fall back on the ‘something a bit different’ – aka individual talent. Beckhams free kicks being a classic case – individual brilliance and requiring no teamwork. Look at his general play – he hasn’t the discipline to stay out wide, and instead constantly drifts in to pick up the ball in an area where they already have two players capable of hitting a big pass.

    George

    In his time 78 players (enough for 7 completely different sides, plus Michael Ricketts) have played for England. And most of the regulars have played in multiple positions. It is insane. No wonder the likes of Lampard, the best player in the Premiership over the past 2 years, who has played a ridiculous amount of contiguous games for Chelsea in the one position and with a rigid formation looks lost.

  • seanniee

    I am not an anglophobe.But England are so Overated it is embarrasing.They have taken part in 4 of the worst games.Only Swiztzerland and Ukraine was as bad.If they do progress they should give Jose Mourinho a medal.
    He has turned Terry,Cole and Lampard into world class divers.

  • English

    abucs,

    I don’t understand your logic, you would rather be a fan of say Spain who play some pretty football but are out? No, it is better to an England fan at this time (at least until Saturday anyway).

    We have every reason to be confident, because I do not see any bad players in the side. We also have World class players in Ferdinand (occasionally),Terry, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney and both Cole’s in my view. I would stick with five in midfield because Carrick was excellent, and Rooney did a good job up front second half.

    P.S: I can assure you that English people do not pay a lot of attention to the Irish teams, this is in stark contrast to your fascination with English football!

  • harpo

    ‘Winning World Cup matches is a brilliant feeling, it’s as simple as that’

    Spot on English.

    It’s all about winning. And on that subject I didn’t see too many Irish people complaining when the ROI team has progressed at the World Cup after having played unattractively. All they cared about was that the ROI got to the next round. Some of the games that the ROI played in the Jack Charlton era were atrocious to watch given his tactics, yet they held the attention of the Irish people becuase it was the ROI that was involved.

    It’s always a lot different when it is your team that is involved. That was true when Northern Ireland were at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. You forgive a lot when your team achieves something.

    I’d say many Irish people are having a go at England this time around because their own team isn’t there. So officially Irish people are neutrals this time, and feel free to comment on everyone else. But the old biases are often behind the criticism of England.

    Let’s not forget that in 1966 England were in exactly the same position as they are today. 4 games played and not looking too impressive and in the last game they scraped through, having abandoned the formation that they used in the 3 group games. And of course the next game is against Portugal, just as it was in 1966. And many people are saying that England aren’t capable of beating Portugal, just as they did in 1966.

  • kensei

    “It’s all about winning. And on that subject I didn’t see too many Irish people complaining when the ROI team has progressed at the World Cup after having played unattractively. All they cared about was that the ROI got to the next round. Some of the games that the ROI played in the Jack Charlton era were atrocious to watch given his tactics, yet they held the attention of the Irish people becuase it was the ROI that was involved.”

    This is, of course, true. But the significant difference is that we:

    1. Never kidded ourselves that we were playing brilliant football or that a World Calss performance was just around the corner.
    2. Never kidded ourselves that we were realistically going to win the thing.
    3. Never compared our half decent players to Pele.
    4. Enjoyed ourseleves a hell of a lot more.

    I have watched every match I can in this WC and would love it if England had played well (and still got beat ;)) for my enjoyment. Instead they’ve produced anti-football, matched only by Ukraine-Switzerland. Brazil haven’t played well either, but at lkeast they’ve made a hatful of chances in every game. I am under no obligation to lie and say they’ve been great. If you want support for the view they’ve been awful, go to any major sport website in the World. They are in it, and may just scrape past a weakened Portugal, but that is by no means guarenteed, and probably only putting off the inevitable.

    On a more general England note, they are absolutely a second tier football power at international level. That is masked by the one World Cup on home soil but is totally apparent when you measure their Wins, Final appearances and Semi Final appearances in major cometition to true footballing powers like Brazil, Germany, Italy, France and Argentina.

  • George

    Harpo,
    I think you are being very unfair to assume criticism by Irish people of the England team is due to any prejudice.

    The reason I feel I as Irish person can criticise the English team is because I know more about them than any other team at the World Cup.

    I see their players week in week out and know they can deliver more. I also feel that this is the best English team of a generation and that they are wasting their talent.

    That isn’t anti-English prejudice, that’s a sporting opinion. I think they are going to fail. If I am wrong your 1966 analogy and English’s opinion will hold sway.

    On the Boys in Green. You are right about the performances. Eamon Dunphy sprang to fame for flinging his pen across the studio at halftime in the Egypt game at Italia 90 and saying he was ashamed to be Irish because of the performance.

    Many football fans weren’t overly happy with Charlton and as soon as the success stopped he was gone. Many Irish football fans are still unhappy with his legacy to this day, especially what he did to Liam Brady, the greatest Irish player of his generation.

    Now we have Eriksson playing Rooney as a single striker. Let’s see how he gets on.

    If England are knocked out all they will have is a first half performance against Sweden.

  • English

    This is, of course, true. But the significant difference is that we:

    1. Never kidded ourselves that we were playing brilliant football or that a World Calss performance was just around the corner.
    2. Never kidded ourselves that we were realistically going to win the thing.
    3. Never compared our half decent players to Pele.
    4. Enjoyed ourseleves a hell of a lot more.

    Kensai,

    Amazing comments, what paper (if any) are you reading with those opinions? To answer you points from an English perspective.

    1. We are very average, not good, not bad, just average! All of my friends back home agree that we are average!
    2. We are in the last eight, and have every right to be excited. Particularly as the other contenders also look pretty average compared to previous World Cups.
    3. What?
    4. I am having a great time, thankyou very much. Are you?

    George,

    You make some fair points, only time will tell if we raise our game. You are right to point out we have the players to do well in this World Cup. We probably won’t make the final, but you never know. If we can beat Portugal and the ageing French beat Brazil we just might if the players get going.

  • kensei

    “1. We are very average, not good, not bad, just average! All of my friends back home agree that we are average!”

    Average? That’s threee levels above where you’re playing. And that’s with a terribly easy draw. I’m watching the BBC, and even thoughj it acknowledges you are playing bad, it can’t help but slip into hype, talking about the performances, “England always pull out a result when needed” and generally talking about quarters and semis before you even got there.

    “2. We are in the last eight, and have every right to be excited. Particularly as the other contenders also look pretty average compared to previous World Cups.”

    Pfff. So are the Ukraine. Average opponents? Brazil played poorly yesterday but still could have had 7. Argentina look awesome. Germany impressed against Sweden. The quality is certainly up on the previous world cup.

    “3. What?”

    Rooney = Pele. Surpised you haven’t heard that one.

    “4. I am having a great time, thankyou very much. Are you?”

    Yes. Unfortunately, my enjopyment dips everytime I watch England. If only FIFA could declare Mexico the winner of the England-Ecador match, and Australia the victors of Ukraine-Switerland, my life would be improved.

  • harpo

    ‘This is, of course, true.’

    Thank you kensei.

    ‘But the significant difference is that we:

    1. Never kidded ourselves that we were playing brilliant football’

    Who has claimed that England IS playing brilliant football? People like me haven’t, the English media hasn’t, football commentators haven’t, English fans haven’t, the English players haven’t and the England coach hasn’t. And folks like you haven’t.

    The players have admitted that they haven’t been playing brilliant football. And most people in England are admitting that the team isn’t playing brilliant football – that has been a major complaint from actual England fans and the media.

    Could you point out even one person who has made this claim?

    I’ve said that it is effective football, not that it has been brilliant.

    ‘I am under no obligation to lie and say they’ve been great.’

    Again, who has been lying and sying any such thing? I haven’t and English fans haven’t. They want better performances, but are like me willing to settle for results as opposed to pretty football.

    ‘2. Never kidded ourselves that we were realistically going to win the thing.’

    True enough, but that was just being realistic. In the same way England do have a realistic chance of winning the whole thing. If England do start playing brilliant football – and given the talent on the field they could do so – they have a better chance of winning the whole thing, but the fact remains that they could also still grind their way to a win, even if they continue to play this unattractive stuff.

    Think 1966 – all people remember is that England won the World Cup. They forget that (or don’t care that) most of that campaign was grinding performances by a workmanlike team. Like this time, the first 4 games were ugly football, and they were led by a coach who was still trying to decide what the best tactocs and formation was.

    ‘If you want support for the view they’ve been awful, go to any major sport website in the World.’

    Again, in terms of style, who is arguing with you? They have been ugly but effective. I’m not arguing that.

    ‘On a more general England note, they are absolutely a second tier football power at international level.’

    OK. So what? This is a general rule and I would agree with you. They average out as World Cup quarter finalists. That means on the odd occasion they are capable of winning it, and on the odd occasion they fail to qualify for it.

    As for your first tier teams I agree with 4 of the 5. I don’t think France are up there. They are with England in the second tier. They only won their World Cup on home soil, and fail to qualify on occasion. France are in the second level lot with England, Netherlands and Spain.

    The big 4 you mention I agree with.

    But being second tier on average doesn’t mean that you can’t win on a specific occasion if things go well. England and France have both shown that. And both teams are capable of winning this time too. You seem to think that teams that are second tier on average can’t win competitions. That’s wrong. They can. And this World Cup is just such an occasion.

    BTW
    If tiers are determined by the (say) 4 teams in them, where does that place the ROI? About 14th tier on average?

    If it does then your statement about not kidding yourselves is accurate. A 14th tier team can’t possibly win the World Cup. But a 2nd tier team like England can if things go well.

    ‘They are in it, and may just scrape past a weakened Portugal’

    Warming up the excuses in case England beat Portugal are you? Say England play really well on Saturday and easily defeat Portugal. Will you give them credit for playing well, or will it be a round of ‘well they might have looked good, but that was only because Portugal were weakened’?

    In other words, could you ever give England some credit?

  • harpo

    ‘I see their players week in week out and know they can deliver more. I also feel that this is the best English team of a generation and that they are wasting their talent.’

    George:

    I agree with you, but as you say, you are disappointed at the way they are playing, knowing that they are capable of doing better.

    But you know as well as I do that many people simply want England to lose, simply because it is England. Such people are usually not sports or football fans and just jump on the anti-England bandwagon. So for every considered opinion like yours there are plenty from people who don’t care if Lampard is doing as well as he could or not, and just want to see the English lose.

    If England get to the semis say and lose 2-1 to Brazil again in as uninspired a fashion in 2002, there will be plenty of people who will say that this great generation of talent was wasted by Sven, and maybe that will be so. But what if England had played barnburners of games and looked great in the matches so far, and still lost to Brazil in a 5-4 end-to-end thriller in the semis, what difference will it have made? Is it really all about looking good and going down in glory playing well?

  • Mick Fealty

    Jimmy Magee (great sports journo with a great turn of phrase) described Brazil’s progress as similar to that of an O’Brien trained racehorse the other day on RTE. A short head here, and little win there, and gradually letting him have his head little by little. The Ecudor game wasn’t brilliant, but… some things seemed to come together in the midfield that hadn’t been there before.

    I’m still hedging bets on England. Portugal are not going to lie down for anyone. But it is a measure of the pessimism surrounding England that no one (except Harpo) sees a similar pattern emerging from them.

    If they get past the Portuguese, they will then have to play two of the toughest games in their international history. But providing there is not a slew of injuries arising they look well set to look to their inner reserves, and play to their full capacity.

  • harpo

    ‘described Brazil’s progress as similar to that of an O’Brien trained racehorse the other day on RTE. A short head here, and little win there, and gradually letting him have his head little by little. The Ecudor game wasn’t brilliant, but… some things seemed to come together in the midfield that hadn’t been there before.’

    Mick:

    Err…Brazil didn’t play Ecuador. Were you referring to England’s midfield there, or Brazil’s?

    I think the biggest thing that any team has to face is playing games against teams that don’t naturally attack. England seem to be running into a brick wall against such teams. I hope that England’s true capabilities will show from now on, given that they will be facing teams that are prepared to try to win, instead of just wanting not to lose. Of course all of that could be done away with by Portugal who are going to be several of their best men down. They may revert to trying to hold England off, resulting in another ugly looking game.

    For all this talk of going for it with attractive football and playing an open game, the England games from the past that people mention as having been good involved opposition that was prepared to have a go to win. Cameroon and the Germans in 1990. The Netherlands and the Germans again in 1996. Those teams didn’t put 10 men behind the ball and hope to outslug England and score on a break. They all tried to win, leaving space and opportunity for an open game, so that England did have breakaways and there was open play in an exciting game.

    So far England have only faced teams that played cautiously. Sweden aren’t what they once were. It takes 2 teams to make a game attractive, yet only England gets blamed for how their games turn out. Why is that? Of course you aren’t going to see breakaways and open play in games like the T&T one, since T&T didn’t push up en masse to try to win, leaving wide open spaces behind them. Ghana did try that against Brazil, and that’s why you saw all that open play and breakaways by Brazil etc.

    I still think that when England meet those who are really trying to win there will be much more open play and the opportunity for Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney and Joe Cole to play the way they can. Then you might see the sort of game like that 5-1 win by England against Germany a few years back.

  • abucs

    ‘English’, i don’t have a fascination with English football. English football is simply the topic of the thread. I have been very careful to not criticise the English too much but to be constructive and optermistic for their chances. In a sporting manner i wish you guys all the best. That should be what sport is about.

    As i said previously, it’s sport, not religion. And again, i may be in a minority (admitted) but I do like to see attractive football first and foremost.

    When Ireland were knocked out against the Spanish my first emotion wasn’t dissappointment, it was relief and pride that they played much better than previous world cups.

    I don’t think winning is the most important thing. If Argentina are knocked out i would still admire their football over other teams who are still there.

    I don’t like the way the Italians play but their style adds to the tournement and they are very competitive. Similarly i’m sure, like other posters here feel (at the moment) with England.

    People like different styles of play. If some people on this thread like the English style and some don’t then so be it. Some people like opera, some pop, some blues, some Irish traditional. I can understand you having the shits with other people criticising your team.
    Fair enough.

    With Dako out for Portugal (unfairly IMHO) and Rooney on the up then i think England have a more than decent chance of progressing to the semi finals. If that was Ireland then sure it would be great, i hope you enjoy the tournement and England continue to build on their performances.

    By the way, if this thread was about Brazil, then in that non-politically charged forum, i would feel more free to criticise them for not being as good as they could be. I wouldn’t say that makes me have a fascination with Brazilian football either.

    Go Argentina !

  • bill

    You omitted Gerrard as a world class diver. Did you see the one against Portugal?

  • Pounder

    The problem with the England game is as simple at this, they are 11 individuals, they are not a team. They get a win and start to believe their own hype. Gerrard and Lampard on the same field doesn’t work, Owen has no place being part of England until he can play a few matches for his club and the FA ignored more able men and chose a clueless yes man, how much pride must he have swallowed to recall Beckham who is the only England player playing for his shirt. It doesn’t help that of the best teams in the Premiership there are very few native players.

    English I saw your precious team humbled at Windsor Park and they looked ordinary bordering on dull, I’ve seen better football at Ibrox. The English team are cocky and arrogant thinking they just have to turn up to get a result and still act this way despite being humbled again and again.