The 2014 FIFA World Cup is over. A sad state of affairs for England, yes, but now that we’re officially in post-tournament mode there is still loads to talk about. Most of it will center around how one country got things right while the other 31 still have much work to do, or how the competition is going to impact the sport in years to come.
But for all the unpredictably it seemed to bring, this year’s World Cup still wound up giving us situations we could have predicted from the start. Among them are the reminders that two of world soccer’s oldest maxims show no signs of changing: England are hopeless, and Germany always win.
Most people have rightly pointed to the German soccer federation’s overhaul more than ten years ago when putting their country’s victory into context, and rightly so. Their record over the past seven tournaments (one title, two finals, five semi-finals) is simply remarkable. Don’t expect that to change, either. With the exception of Miroslav Klose, it’s understandable to assume that the vast majority of this German team will be back to take the field in Russia in four years time. And that doesn’t factor in the plethora of talented youngsters Germany already has in the pipeline.
But for all the joy Germans are experiencing, the English are at the other end of the spectrum. One point from three games is never going to induce goodwill, even if the attacking verve they showed against Italy is a promising sign for the future.
Once the final whistle blew in Rio, many England fans – and fans from other nations – were suggesting the English FA should to try emulate their Germany counterparts by instituting their own grand plan.
It seems like a good idea in theory, but one of the country’s loudest football voices was having none of it.
Gary Neville tweeted Monday: “People who write – ‘England should follow the German route’ are either oblivious to the obstacle or believe in magic wands!”
Neville went on to explain how he believes the set-up in England isn’t conducive to running a model like Germany, where each club from the top two divisions was forced to maintain their own academy, with a focus on the development of technical players.
When you think about it, Neville isn’t saying anything groundbreaking. The German model hasn’t succeeded only because it’s a smart plan to implement, but because it’s the right system for the right country. Over the past few weeks many commentators have pointed to Germany’s economic might as perhaps the most important factor in this transformation. It takes an extremely populated and wealthy country like Germany to change their entire footballing landscape in such a terrific and, dare I say it, effective manner.
But still, Neville’s opinion should be taken seriously. After all, he has seen the ins and outs of the English game from a perspective few could match. Neville played for the English senior team for 12 years, and now as one of Roy Hodgson’s assistants, he must surely see the full spectrum of what it takes to produce a fine national team.
Neville wasn’t necessarily trying to make excuses for England’s present and future failures, he was only explaining how one country’s plan might not come off in another. Neville also tweeted that England need to find their own way of changing things, one more suited to their footballing structure.
Finding that solution is easier said than done – and it might require changes at the FA, something which seems less likely than an England World Cup victory – but it’s worth searching for.
Every nation besides Germany, from Brazil, to the USA, to Poland, are still looking for answers. England have been looking for far too long. To change all that, they’d be wise to take the advice of a man who’s seen and done it all.