When you think about football, the thing that immediately pops up in your head is the English Premier League. In just 20 odd years, the English Premier league has become the most competitive league in the world.
Stunning goals, nimble-footed tricks and much more – The Premier League has brought about many a modern great. From Shearer to Suarez and all in between, the EPL has had a roller coaster ride. It has transformed the game of football.
But one question always remains constant. Why can’t England win any major tournament?
As said, England is home to what many feel, the most competitive league in the world. Although it has brought out many in to the limelight and given them the credit they duly deserve, they have failed to perform as a team when the national duties beckoned.
The last decade has seen Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes marshalling the troops and they were certainly the heartbeat of the team, or to an extent atleast. While they were making waves in the English Premier League, when it came to their national team, they were a shade of their best and that hampered the national team’s chances to a great extent. Not surprising at all, the Spanish side may not have had anything to show if Xavi-Iniesta failed to reproduce their Barcelona form at the International arena.
Now, many might wonder why that was so. One reason would be due to the three of them coming from three teams who have very different strategies. And that would surely affect their on field chemistry, isn’t it? Also, the three of them are from fierce rivals-Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea compete for the domestic title almost every year although Liverpool have not been regularly doing so, until last season.
The undoubted powerhouse of World football currently is Spain. Spain is a team which prefers to pass the ball and decimate the opponent, tiring them out and forcing them to defend for the major part of the match. While Spain have done it with precision and decimated others, England have been utterly careless in giving the ball away far too easily. Also, England have never been able to make their own style. They tend to mix and match. The Germans have had the all attacking style, Brazil have had the samba style, Italy have had their own Catenaccio while Spain nowadays have the tiki-taka style inspired by Johan Cryuff’s Ajax.
Another point to note is that the core of Spain’s team generally come from two teams- Barcelona and Madrid. Their keeper Casillas has been a mainstay for the past 10 years and that’s one thing that the Three Lions have not been able to reciprocate.
First it was David James, then Paul Robinson, Robert Green and now Joe Hart. Hart has been an excellent goalkeeper for his club, Manchester City, but he has seldom shown his true class for the national team.
Also, England strikers have hardly performed when the time beckons them to. Rooney has pretty much never done anything of note when it was really needed. The same goes with Jermaine Defoe, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Peter Crouch, three of England’s other regular strikers in the same period.
Then comes the defence. While they have had players who have been no less spectacular than their midfield counterparts while playing for their clubs, they have been rather poor while playing for the Three Lions. Like the Central Midfield duo of Lampard and Gerrard, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand have not been the best of mates on and off the field. Terry’s racist remarks towards Rio’s brother didn’t help the cause either. Yes, Anton and Rio Ferdinand are not on good terms with each other, but it’d certainly make Rio awkward against a player who has had a history of making a racist comment about his brother.
The team managers have also proved to be a flop. They usually play the 4-4-2 formation which uses the full width of the pitch; English clubs especially Manchester United have been relying heavily on their wingers despite other European clubs adapting their game play to better suit the changing demands of modern football. Although the strikers get support from the wingers, there’s often no one to support them as a third attacker. Lampard did it for sometime. But it was no where even close as to how he was effective with his club- Chelsea. Nowadays, Brendan Rodgers has been changing his formation almost every game for Liverpool. Against United, he played the diamond formation- using Sterling in a more central role and it certainly paid dividends. Otherwise, he uses the arrow formation which ensures that Coutinho plays from the centre and helps the two strikers. His through balls dissect the opposite team’s defence and Suarez/Sturridge score making the opposition look like school children.
Enough has been said about their players. Few other factors like over expectations, pressure due to reputation and the mental block of losing penalty shootouts have ensured that this nation has not achieved what it can. With less than a fortnight to go and the team all but set, this World Cup would probably be England’s best chance after many years considering their team and their options and it’d be interesting to see how they fare in the grandest stage of them all.