FIFA World Cup 2010: Wake Up England, We're the Biggest Joke in Europe
Germany 4, England 1. The scoreline flatters the English; Germany dominated proceedings in Bloemfontein and were Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski not so wasteful in the opening half an hour, Germany would have gone in at the break with four goals.
Frank Lampard's inexplicably disallowed goal will generate much heated debate and revive calls for FIFA to bring in goal line technology, but at the end of the day, England were outplayed and just embarrassed by a nation not too dissimilar to ourselves.
I don't want to focus on today's events though. We need to look at the bigger picture. As an Englishman who has spend a good quarter of my life living in Deutschland, I find it difficult to comprehend the English naivety in terms of the expectation of our visibly poor national team.
I will start with some facts. Germany and England were the only teams in this tournament who selected an entire squad of home-based players. At first glance, this looks like a reflection of their nation's respective domestic leagues. This is deceiving.
The Bundesliga, I feel, draws much unwarranted criticism from foreign fans, whereas in reality it is one of the most entertaining and powerful leagues in European football. Year after year, it consistently sees the highest attendances in World football, and every season there is a genuine feeling of unknown as to who will win the title. This provides refreshing entertainment and excitement for fans on a regular basis.
More importantly, the Bundesliga is renowned for housing powerful European clubs that live within their means. Bayern Munich, the most successful German club in history, has what is arguably the safest and most efficient financial regime in world football. Yes there are anomalies, Schalke 04 for example are struggling with debt at the moment, but on the whole, the Bundesliga is the most financially-sound league in Europe.
The effects of a well-run football club from a perspective level inevitably has consequences. Teams cannot afford huge transfer fees, especially in today's climate where the market has been hugely inflated by clubs in England and Spain being taken over by Arab billionaires and taking out massive loans with national banks. So, as an alternative to spending huge on foreign players, Germany do the sensible thing. They develop their own talent.
The entire Germany team that outclassed England today were produced in German youth-academies, usually playing for small local teams from a very young age, being encouraged by their families and friends, and receiving steady guidance from coaches. Bigger German teams will then pick these talents up in their early teens and develop them further.
The likes of Phillip Lahm, Klose, and Bastian Schweinsteiger were developed this way. In England, if you are seen as 'not good enough', even from a very young age, you are pushed out of the team, not only by friends who pressurise and abuse the less naturally-gifted players, but also the coaches who can't be bothered to persist with the potential.
Germany's squad in the 2010 World Cup has been called that of a 'Rainbow Nation,' a homage to hosts South Africa, but basically commenting on the various 'adopted' nations of a lot of the players. Klose is half-polish, Jerome Boateng is part-Ghanaian, and Sami Khedira and wonderkid Mesut Ozil are of Turkish descent. They were all born in Germany and have been brought up in the German youth-system; the foreign media are mistaken when they use the term 'adopted nation'.
Let's focus on England while remaining on the same point. English grassroots football is pathetic, with many villages and towns not even offering an adult amateur football club, let alone somewhere for youth development. There are not enough football pitches in England, not enough youth coaches, and not enough advertising to encourage children to get involved.
The English mentality could have been what killed this off; with the tendency to gang up on kids who 'don't score goals' or can't do more than three 'keepie-ups'. There isn't enough education on how to play the game, and even the few youths that do come through are severely more handicapped than those of other nations.
Against Germany, the gulf in the skill level was huge. The Germans were dribbling regularly, pinging passes all over the pitch, and being pragmatic in their play on and off the ball. England players struggled to string passes together, especially when moving the ball out of defence, there were no players who were confident running with the ball, and too many times players were in no man's land at the crucial moment. Why was John Terry the furthest up-field player when Germany scored their third goal?
This brings me back to the issue of domestic leagues. English pundits can bleat on all they want about how talented the England players are, playing in 'the best league in the world, with the best players in the world'. The issue is in that statement.
The English domestic football tier starts with the nPower Championship. The Premier League has an abysmal percentage of English players, little over 40 percent I believe, a figure in stark contrast to the likes of Germany who themselves have their fair share of foreign imports, but still have German players at top clubs and being the real stars of the league.
Frank Lampard is not a technically good player. Gareth Barry is not a technically good player. Emile Heskey is definitely not a technically good player. They are made to look good in the Premier League by the talent around them. When you stick them all together you get the England squad, a mediocre/poor team who have no chance of competing with world powers in reality, the buzz generated by the media causing the unrealistic expectations.
There are two reasons why all of England's players play in their own league. Firstly, they aren't good enough to play in any other top European league. Time and time again we've seen various Englishmen move to top foreign clubs, and it fast becomes apparent that they cannot make the cut.
There are plenty of German players who have been successful abroad, as well as having an abundance of talent at home. This can be attributed to the consistent youth development system. Secondly, English footballers stay in England because of the astronomical sums of money on offer to football players. The money is also a heavy factor in England's lack of talent.
The Premier League generates huge amounts of money from television rights every season. This is distributed to the various clubs, allowing them to live outside their means and spend on ridiculous transfer fees. What's the point in focusing on quality youth development when you can buy cheaper foreign talents, both youth prospects as well as established stars? Inevitably, this impacts on the strength of the national side. The fact we are courting the likes of Mikel Arteta and Manuel Almunia to change national allegiance to England tells a story of how bad the situation is in itself.
England fans cannot have the Premier League in its current state as well as a successful national team. The Premier League relies on the foreign talent to provide the buzz and strength of the matches and clubs respectively, and if they were to refuse taking the huge sums of money from Sky for broadcasting rights, they could no longer afford the foreigners.
Richard Scudamore and his greedy cronis at the League Association will no doubt contine to discard their morals and keep taking the money. Good news for fans who continue to accept our fantasy league, terrible news for those who want a successful team at international level.
As well as having a squad entirely built from their own league, England also notably had the oldest squad at the tournament. Worryingly, this group of big experienced talents has failed horribly, and you have to wonder where the next 'golden generation' is going to come from. Much has been made of the fact that Germany are a team in transition; thanks to their careful and effective youth development system the transition is looking to be pretty seamless.
Will England swallow their pride and put greed aside to take a leaf out of the Germans' book? Don't be silly, 'we invented football'.
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