England is one game away from being knocked out of the World Cup. And while England’s supporters are still reeling from the abysmal performance against Algeria, they’re now looking for excuses. They need someone to blame. What else can explain the dire performance in a game that most people (myself included) predicted they would win comfortably?
So, here are ten excuses that you can expect to hear over the next few days to weeks to months that England players, fans and officials will share:
- Premier League footballers play too many meaningless FA Cup and Carling Cup matches,
- The Premier League needs to have a winter break to allow players to rest over the holidays,
- Fabio Capello is not a competent manager at the international level,
- The Jabulani ball is horrible,
- There are too many foreigners in the Premier League that are keeping English players out of teams,
- David Beckham’s injury dealt the English a massive blow,
- England plays too many meaningless friendlies,
- Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard can’t play together in the same team,
- The Premier League is too physical and played at such a fast pace that players are exhausted,
- The Football Association has a poor coaching and youth system in place.
Despite all of the excuses, the bottom line is that England is simply not good enough.
Of course, it’s quite possible that England may beat Slovenia and make it through to the round of 16. And then start playing well. But based on how terrible they have been thus far, even if they qualify for the second round, they’re bound to get knocked out soon because there’s no way this England team can morph from abysmal footballers to world beaters in the space of one to two weeks.
In the past couple of years, I grappled with the question whether England was a decent team or not. After England failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championship, I was glad that someone with the experience of Fabio Capello was chosen as England manager. That’s because, finally, we would know whether England was a decent team or not. For too long, they had England managers who weren’t able to get the best out of the side. But if Capello couldn’t do it, then no one could and we would then know that England was definitely in a decline.
But the qualification campaign by England for the 2010 World Cup got us believing in England again. Sure, there were the faults that we often see, but the confidence was back in the team and they played like winners albeit against inferior opposition.
Now at the 2010 World Cup, their confidence has stooped to new lows. In their first game in the 2010 World Cup, they played the one team in the world which could destroy their confidence as much as any nation, the United States. This was a country that many English fans, pundits (and presumably players) scoffed at as being inferior, so the draw dealt a massive blow to England and got them thinking that if they couldn’t beat the United States, they must be in a much worst state than they believed.
Most of us, as readers, know that the United States has advanced as a soccer nation and is a force to be reckoned with. But many Englanders love to live in the past and believe that England is still a soccer empire. At the end of the day, it’s not. The England players are psychologically very weak, succumb to media and fan pressure far too easily and can’t play football very well as a team. When they’re playing as individuals next to some of the best players in the world, they elevate their game. But when they play together on a national level, the ghosts of England’s past failures come back to haunt them.
On Wednesday, England has an opportunity to exorcise their demons by defeating Slovenia. And to win against them will require a world-class performance against the best team in Group C. If England players and supporters truly believe that they are a quality team, they need to prove it in a few days time. Otherwise, they’ll be cast away to the dregs of football’s past and dismissed as a footballing power for years to come.