Written on 4/01/2007 12:49:00 pm by sikapitan

What’s wrong with the England national team? Plenty, if you were to read the reports and reviews by every football scribe with a pen and/or keyboard. I tried watching the Israel-England game a few days back, but I struggled with boredom at the total lack of imagination shown by the English side. Hence, with Phil Neville and Jamie Carragher manning the flanks for England, I cannot help but fall asleep with just 10 minutes of the game gone.

Again I tried to watch the England – Andorra game, convinced that against a nation 100+ place below England in the Fifa World Rankings, England would not only win but win it in style. I was half expecting Rooney to chip in a delightful finish just like he did so casually over David James a month ago, or even John Terry to come up for a corner and smash the ball into the back of the net with aplomb. Heck, I even thought I might see Owen Hargreaves notch up a goal or two.

Alas, after 15 minutes of some slack positioning, bad passing and even worse approach play, I fell asleep. It’s not always like this you see. I used to be able to catch these early morning matches without blinking an eyelid. But since running a new restaurant (something which will be a surprise to many of my readers), plus my pupilage period in a private law firm, I haven’t had a decent rest.

Enough about me (which this blog never was anyway), and back to the England national team. I’m sorry, but the last time England entertained me was way back in 2001 when England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich. England’s performance after that period has been impressive in patches, but most of the time they have been nothing but mediocre. They reached the quarter-finals of the last World Cup, but does anyone remember a single impressive play by any of their players?

Sure I had a good laugh when Paul Robinson’s goal kick went high enough to hit the hanging giant screen, and it was heart wrenching to see Owen’s knees got injured the way it did. And I’m sure everyone remembered the sly wink Ronaldo gave when Rooney got sent off. The worse part of it all is that England has the temerity to claim that Rooney’s sending off was what cost them a place in the semi-final.

The truth is harder to swallow. England is in a unique position in that they are not bad enough to be ranked together with the likes of Macedonia, nor are they that weak until they’re bunched with the Irish, but at the same time they are definitely leagues behind the likes of Germany, Italy and Brazil. In short, they’re not world champions or even contenders for the king of Europe, but neither are they chump. They are at best, a quarter-finals kind of team, and at worst, a second round team.

I think everyone kind of know this. It’s just hard to accept when they look at the team-sheet that the English put out every game. At every department there’s a player that’s all too familiar to football fans all over the world. Heck, even the likes of Andy Johnson and Stewart Downing are known all over the world.

Why? Because the English Premier League is the best marketed league, and arguably, the best league in the world as well. And though there will be those who argue for the Spanish or Italian league, I personally think that the English league has overcome its initial technical deficiency to become an almost complete league. But therein lies the problem.

The rise of the EPL can be traced back to the way the league has been marketed, which makes it a cash cow to buy players, which means that more and more top-class talents are heading towards the EPL, which then means that though the English Premier League’s standard is rising, it doesn’t necessarily mean the same for the English National Team.

It’s not that the English players are bad. Far from it. As the Champions League has shown, the English players can compete with the very best that Europe can offer. The likes of Gerrard and Lampard can walk into any team in the world. Nevertheless, their club form has been aided by the contribution of FOREIGN PLAYERS, not English.

For example, Rooney shines the most when Ronaldo is playing at his best. But Ronaldo, on the other hand, plays well regardless of whether Rooney is at his best or not. Same goes for Gerrard, who looked somewhat lost when Xabi Alonso was hassled off the park my Manchester United midfielders. Rio Ferdinand isn’t half as impressive without Vidic winning all the headers. Lampard cannot function without Essien or Makelele covering his ass.

So the true footballers in the England team, in fact, aren’t actually that good without the system and players around them. Which leaves England with the likes of Terry, Neville, and Hargreaves…players who are the spine of their respective club side, and perform admirably for the national team, but who are not expected, nor are they able, to conjure up goals for fun or even set up a decent approach play.

Everybody has heard of Andy Johnson because he plays for Everton. And no disrespect to Everton fans, but most people get to see Andy Johnson because most people watch the likes of Man Utd, Arsenal or Chelsea go against Everton. Thus, he is popular, in a sense. But popularity and ability does not go hand in hand. Is he famous because he is really good (which I kind of think he is) or because he plays in the EPL?

The problem is that when people see Andy Johnson, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Phil Neville, Stewart Downing, or Aaron Lennon, they immediately assume that these are better players than the likes of Luca Toni, Iniesta, Metzelder, or Tiago…but they’re not. They’re just more famous.

So England is a famous team consisting of famous players. But is it a good team filled with good players? The last two years seems to indicate otherwise. Go figure.


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