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Sunday, June 20, 2010

England's World Cup Wallies

Well, I said last week that England probably didn’t have enough world class players to win the World Cup.

I was being over generous. Do England have any world class players? The performance against Algeria was the most technically inept showing from an England team I have ever seen.

The passing was terrible, the ball control was terrible and the corners were terrible.

Gerrard, ‘Lamps’, Rooney and co might look like world-beaters when they are playing for their mega-rich clubs against mediocre Premiership opposition, but- let's face it- they have consistently failed to deliver at the highest level.

Yes, we can go on and on about systems and tactical formations, but isn’t the bottom line that England’s players are simply not good enough, as Karl Naylor said in his comment to last week‘s post?

And isn't it also the case that our much-hyped Premier League, where all our players ply their trade, is not as good as its supporters make out?


Nick said...

Spot on Neil. Money - driven by Sky TV and the Premiership - has ruined the English game completely.

Capello hasn't helped matters either though with his dull and predictable selections, tactics and naming teams 2 hours before kick off.

He´ll walk away with 6 million in the bank after the World Cup. Rooney, Gerrard and "Lamps" will go back to being overpaid, overated "Gods" and what's most galling of all is that they will continue to be adored by the football going British public.

I'd urge anyone who seriously cares for English football to boycott Premiership matches until it is properly and justly reformed.

Anonymous said...

They're very fit and fast, and, watching them train, they seem to have very good individual ball skills. They fall to pieces against half-decent opposition because they lack flair, imagination and - I'm sorry to say - intelligence. Listening to them speak about football or indeed any subject reveals the dismal fact that very few of them are intelligent enough to play team sports well. They would be even worse at cricket. They look good in the Premiership because they feed off the flair players from abroad - especially Lampard. They are the products of Britain's dumbed down, infantile-narcissist culture.

- questionnaire

Robin Carmody said...

The problems afflicting the England team are, essentially, the same ones afflicting England itself.

The myopic refusal to learn anything from our fellow Europeans, still distorting the way England play even after a decade mostly spent under continental coaches and 15 years after Bergkamp, Zola et al arrived.

The lack of a clearly definable cultural identity, and the dependence on American consumer culture, which makes the players unsure as to who and what they are playing for; this would not be an issue were they actually good players, but they are so mediocre that they have to "go out there and do it for England", and how can they psych themselves up against the USA when it is there that their true loyalties lie?

The bull-headed dregs-of-empire assumption that "we" are "the rightful rulers", the refusal to learn the lessons of decades of international humiliation, the insistence that "we" have a divine right to our own seat at the top table.

The reduction of everything to crude, short-termist neoliberalism and money power, which makes it far easier for the players to feel allegiances towards global PLCs (which is all the clubs really are anymore) than anything as feudal as a nation, especially this one.

And just as the old cultural cringe that many of England's former colonies used to make towards the old country has been reversed, English commentators have to resort to cheering on New Zealand in their "heroic" 1-1 draw with Italy.

Sport in any nation only ever reflects its environment. English football, alas, is the most perfect reflection imaginable of ours.

Douglas said...

America is responding to the World Cup with traditional apathy and ignorance.

American sports media is making a big deal out of the World Cup, with America's Big 3 (Donovan, Dempsey and Howard) on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and live ESPN coverage of every match.

I am one of the millions of Americans who couldn't explain why America was robbed on the disallowed goal in the Slovenia match.

I tried to explain the groups and tournament format to my children, but they were uninspired.

DBC Reed said...

A lot of the English players looked knackered to me.Lampard has looked tired and laboured for ages.A mid winter break would be no bad thing.Is it any coincidence that the most over-worked looking players come from the most capitalist clubs? Also a bit of a team mutiny as in 1990 would n't come amiss .This feudal manager system with no attempt to incorporate the opinions of the senior players is in need of a touch of revolution.Also its time for the traditional red shirts that we very rarely lose in.

olching said...

They never had a chance of winning it. The reason they do well in the PL is because they are surrounded by world class players. Tellingly, the players from outside the moneyed top clubs are doing marginally better (with the honourable exception of Rob Green).

I think questionnaire is right, by the way. Footballers don't have to be beacons of intellectual discourse, but - listening to, say, Dutch or French players - it is clear that football culture in this country is antithetical to any form of intelligent thought.

It's apparent in the punditry (Shearer's command of the English language is shameful - particularly when comparing it to, say, Clarence Seedorf, a non-native speaker; that's before mentioning the cliched nonsense Shearer et al offer the general public), and feeds right through to the laddish way of dealing with notions of togetherness, teamwork, conflict (say what you want about the French: at least they do bust-ups in style and don't pretend that 'the lads are alright'). I suspect if you asked the England team where Algeria or Slovenia are (on the map or in words), apart from David James none of them would know.

Anyway, I dread England scraping through against a very good *team*, Slovenia.

Who will win the World Cup? The usual suspects, I'm afraid: Brazil, Argentina, Netherlands (not that usual), Germany (despite their loss). One of the Latin American teams outside of Arg & Bra might make the semis.

It's been a dreadful world cup so far in terms of football.

Krakow's New Dragons said...

Well, I did predict it. England's players lack mental stamina. In the last World Cup, I though they might just beat Brazil if they held their nerve after going one up before half time. But they couldn't. They lost their nerve and Brazil ran rings around them.

The other factor is that these players don't play along with other English players in the Premier League, now a play thing for the rich. Football used to be so exciting.

Now it's as dull as ditchwater. After the Algeria no score bore draw, I gave up. If Slovenia win, then I really do not care. We have no God ordained right to win it. And we just won't.

Money has destroyed football as has rapacious money power in nearly every aspect of public and private existence it blights, from politics, to architecture, to kitschy art installations and fake art.

We have become pretentious failures at all levels of public life whilst private affluence makes people shallow, narcissistic boring. lacking in flair and creativity.

Let's hope there aren't riots on the streets after they get knocked out.

BTW I recommend Tony Judt's superb criticism of contemporary UK and USA in Ill Fares the Land ( 2010 ).

Anonymous said...


"...apart from David James none of them would know".

Indeed. When asked whether he was close to either of the other two goalkeepers, James replied that he wasn't close to anyone on the team. It's not a class issue. Working alongside these eejits every day must be almost as intolerable as working in the City of London.

I think we have to let Gareth Southgate off this particular hook as well, though.

- questionnaire

Robin Carmody said...

Agreed with questionnaire and olching.

However, I think it *is* a class issue to a considerable extent: the bull-headed low horizons, and tense, nervous fear of any wider experiences and understandings, that disfigures English football culture is itself almost entirely a product of the class system, where those who *do* have such knowledge have regarded football as beneath them, and those who are brought up on it, and see it as an important part of their identity, tend to have a deep-rooted inverted snobbery and insularity, a fear that any wider learning would alienate them from their background. In the countries (i.e. most of the rest of Europe, including Ireland - check RTE's panel, far more incisive than either of ours) where there is nothing strange or unusual about the use of what some hatefully call "big words" (the *exact term* someone I know uses to attack the excellent commentator Jon Champion - sounds positively McCarthyite) and a broad range of references in the discussion of football, the whole culture has not been disfigured by class divisions in anything like the same way. Southgate indeed was clearly articulate and knowledgeable to a much greater extent than most of his colleagues, but then he also came from an unusually middle-class background for an English footballer (there are class divisions on the continent, of course, but note that our "posh" sports are mostly less popular there).

I am seriously frightened that someone might get killed should England play Germany in the second round.

Czarny Kot said...

I was rooting for Algeria after the first half an hour or so.

My enthusiasm for the England team has plummeted in recent years but I never thought I would see the day when I would actively support the other team...

Oh well, I'm British, not English so it's OK.

At least France and Italy are doing as bad (or even worse)

I've been very disappointed by the African teams. I never bought into the propaganda that African football was an irresistable force of nature but I expected 1 or 2 teams to live up to Cameroon in '90 and Nigeria in '94.

With the exception of Ghana, who have been solid if unspectacular, and Cameroon against Denmark the African performances have ticked every box on the list of cliches-- defensively naive, headless chickens upfront, and studs flying when things aren't going their way (how the hell did Ivory Coast finish with 11 against Brazil?)

On the bright side, Hispanophiles like me can be happy-- Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile all unbeaten.

I wouldn't be too surprised to see Uruguay or Paraguay in the semis. Good luck to them.

olching said...


You forget Senegal in 2002, Ghana in 2006 and Morocco in 1986.

In any case, I have a theory regarding that: Those African teams that have done well have tended to have some 'local players'. Now, you look at the Ivory Coast and they're full of mercenaries who basically never set foot in their home country, let alone play there.

So in many ways, I think European money is ruining African football (the idea in the early 90s of African football being a natural force was in itself bound up with often crude racist stereotypes about black people and power, strength, and athleticism). It's a horror story: Rich European clubs buying young African footballers and completely uprooting African football culture (just look at Mexico: Most of their players play in Mexico and they consistently qualify for the last 16). I don't think we can simply say Africans aren't disciplined. I buy that as little as I do any other stereotype about 'Africa'.

@Questionnaire, RobinCarmody:

I tend to agree with questionnaire. Class matters only insofar that it a parody of a working class image is mimicked on and off the pitch, but in reality it's simply about horizons and British culture. Prince Philip is as ignorant and thick as Frank Lampard (who was privately educated) or 'Stevie G'.

Robin Carmody said...

olching, of course there are low horizons and a bull-headed insularity (coupled with adulation of one particular foreign country as though it somehow were not foreign at all) embedded into British culture *across many classes*. I'm not denying that Prince Philip is a bigot, or that many people of his class hold similar views - there is a strong similarity between such attitudes in the aristocracy and in what used to be the working class, and within sport, horse racing is where those classes come together (check the obits in the Racing Post - almost everyone seems to have gone either to Eton or to a sec mod which they left at 15, or if they're old enough an elementary school which they left at 14). Lampard is indeed typical of wide-boy-made-good, first-gen private school, which is (and I do hope this doesn't sound too Old Tory-ish) often a particularly odious sub-class ... we all know that.

But what I would suggest is that the low horizons, and the deeper problems in British culture, were pretty much created - and have been further disfigured over many centuries - *by* the class system. I don't think anyone could seriously dispute that. As I said, places which do not have this set of false and artificial divisions - between football and "art" - have not had anything like the same amount of class divisions, and what divisions they have had have often been disrupted by invasions and shifting borders in a way ours have not.

Czarny Kot said...

@Olching: I stand corrected on Senegal-- I forgot they played some great stuff and made it to the quarters. I watched most of that tournament half asleep due to the time difference.

I'm too young to remember '86 and while Ghana played some nice stuff in Germany they never, in my opinion, matched the famous Nigerian or Cameroon teams.

I agree 100% with your analysis: the African sides don't play as teams because they go to Europe so early. South Africa might be out but they didn't do too bad and they looked like a team-- compared to the other African sides they have a lot of players from their relatively strong domestic league.

Ill-discipline is of course not an African feature- look at Rooney's sending off last time round.

However, I think we have to say that the old stereotype about defensive organisation is hard to dismiss (S. Korea's goal v. Nigeria the latest example). I think it is connected with the teamwork factor.