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Overrated England Sure to Disappoint in 2010


As we head into the festive season, English fans are wrapping the present they give themselves before every World Cup – the gift of unbridled confidence in their national football team.  And yet, as they have for the past 40+ years, those English fans are likely to stick their thumb in the Christmas pudding and pull out something far less enjoyable than the plum.

Will England beat the US on June 12?   That is the smart bet, but hardly a lock.  Will England get out of this group?  Barring a complete meltdown, yes.  Will they end up crashing out early in the knock-out stage, disappointing their legion of rabid, over-optimistic fans?  Without a doubt.  The 2010 version of England’s “greatest team in a generation” will again prove that English fans look at their team with such adoration that they constantly blind themselves to their glaring faults.

First, the big picture.  This English team is almost man-for-man the same English team that failed to qualify for the 2008 Euro tournament.  And yes, Steve McLaren (who, by the way, seems to be doing a great job in the Netherlands) has been replaced by Fabio Capello as manager.  And yes, England easily won its WCQ group.  But, putting aside the fact that its group consisted of some of the weakest sisters that Europe has to offer, the fact is that in friendlies against quality opponents, Capello’s record is strikingly similar to McClaren’s.  

Under both McClaren and Capello, England played freindlies against the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil and Spain.  Under McCleran, they lost to Germany and Spain and drew Brazil and the Netherlands.  Under Capello, they lost to Brazil and Spain, drew the Netherlands and beat Germany.  For what it’s worth, they also lost to France under Capello.  England certainly does not look like world beaters under either manager.

But when you drill down to the micro analysis, England’s glaring deficits become exposed.  Starting from the back and moving forward, there are holes, questions and vulnerabilities throughout the English lineup.

Goalkeeper – David James or Paul Robinson.  Ugh.  Are either of these two journeyman keepers in the top ten of the EPL?  Let alone World Cup?  The fact that Robinson is having a decent run of form at the moment with Blackburn (!!) and may have nudged slightly ahead of James is all you need to know about how weak England is in this position.

Central Defense – John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.  John Terry is a leader and a fine pick, but Ferdinand is not what he once was.  Not by a long shot.  Once they hit the age of 30, footballers lose their skills the way F. Scott Fitzgerald said rich people lose their fortunes – slowly over time and then suddenly all at once.  At a creaking, constantly injured 31, Ferdinand seems to be going from the “slowly” phase to the “all at once” moment.  Even on those rare occasions where he is fit, he is a step slower both in foot and instinct than he used to be.  Of course, if Ferdinand is not fit, Plan B is……..?  Mathew Upson?  Wes Brown?  Ledley King?  It makes you want to turn your head in horror.

Left and Right Defense – Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson.  Although he is an automatic pick, there was a day when he was with Arsenal when Cole was considered the best left back in the world.  His game with Chelsea seems to have degraded a bit, but he is still a good pick.  On the other side of the pitch, nobody mixes Johnson up with the best right back in the world.  Or the best in the EPL.  Or lately, the best on the Liverpool squad.  He certainly was not good enough to remain with Chelsea.  However, there is no doubt that he is the best the English side has to offer.

 Central Midfield – Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are great midfielders.  They may not be the intimidating forces they were a season or two ago, but they are certainly quality players.  Unfortunately for England, they seem like almost the same player.  This has been the major debate in England over the last five years and it is not yet resolved.  In fact, the debate has largely been abandoned.  It is now just a given that England will have two midfielders who guide the attack forward neither of whom will be the designated holder.  Without that defensive midfielder, you tend to get a lot of this, which knocked England out of the Euro qualifying two years ago.

On the wings – Aaron Lennon and ????  With Theo Walcott spending more time on the training table than on the pitch, Lennon will be probably be holding down the right wing.  Lennon is decent enough, but he is certainly not the type of player that will unbalance the major powers in the South Africa.  At his best, Walcott may be that player, but with all his injuries, we have not seen that best in a long time.  On the left, well, that is a bit of a head scratcher.  That slot has been filled by a bunch of people playing out of position lately, including Gerrard, Michael Carrick and whatever other warm body that can be found.  Do you know what they call a team that does not have a single natural left winger?  A team that does not win the World Cup.

Striker –   Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe.  Although he may not have become the Ronaldo-like figure that he was forecasted to be when he burst on the scene, Wayne Rooney is a good striker.  He is tough, opportunistic, and you dare not give him much space.  Fortunately for England’s opponents, they can afford to mark him well because England’s other striker is…..Jermain Defoe?  Yes, that Jermain Defoe.  The one who has bounced from mid-level EPL team to mid-level EPL team over the past decade.  Unless England is going to be playing Wigan in the World Cup, it is hard to get too excited.  But don’t worry.  When the chips are down and you need a little bit of magic to come off the bench and save it for England in the last ten minutes, you can turn to….Peter Crouch?  Michael Owen?  Oh God, not Emile Heskey?  It is hard to find a weaker striker corps than that.

Of course, none of this will really matter until that black day this summer when England again crashes out of the World Cup.  Until then, the English fans will spend six months convincing themselves that, with the three lions on their chest , they have the ability to sweep away all who dare to lay siege to the trophy that rightfully should be paraded to the Buckingham Palace and presented to the Queen.  Oh well.  This Christmas season is made for dreams.  Unfortunately for England, June and July will bring the winter of discontent.

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  1. David

    July 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    People keep talking about a “decline” in the standard of English football on the international stage. When was it ever good? Other than a brief period in the late 60s, when have England ever looked world class?

    1950s-early 60s: Insular and deluded England teams regularly humbled by technically superior outfits.
    1966: World Cup winners at home
    1970: Beaten in quarter finals. First of many beatings at the hands of West Germany.
    1974: DNQ!
    1978: DNQ again!!
    1982: Didn’t lose a game, but out anyway before knockout rounds.
    1986: Beaten in quarter finals
    1990: Beaten in semi-finals
    1994: DNQ
    1998: Out in round of 16
    2002: Beaten in quarter finals
    2006: Beaten in quarter finals
    2010: Pummeled in round of 16

    Is this the record of a world-class soccer nation? Who cares if many of these exits were due to penalties – England have ALWAYS lacked something (skill, nerve, intelligence) in the last 40 years. If anything, the oughts represent a vast improvement over the 1970s.

    Where on Earth does this English expectation of greatness come from? And don’t the English ever learn from their mistakes? Apparently, kicking the ball up the field and running after it is not the soundest of tactics.

    The English have to be some of the dullest and deluded people on the planet.

  2. keith

    July 7, 2010 at 8:01 am

    This is one of the most insightful articles that I have ever read. You would think you wrote the article after England were destroyed by Germany. But wait and see, come the European Championships, England will be over-rated again. They just aren’t good enough, each and every one of them panics on the ball, I blame a basic lack of skill and composure under pressure, added with the the added pressure from all the media hype.

  3. jimmi mckelekerney

    June 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    England’s International football team has been over-rated for years now. English players on the whole can not dribble, play confidendly with both feet, how can we expect them to win an international tournament. It always amazes that everybodies hopes are high when a tournament starst. I once argued that they will never win anything until they address the basic skills,i.e. players been confortable with both feet and the art of taking players on, my attempt was futile, all I got in response was the usual… blame the tactics….blame the manager….blame the selection…bla…bla..bla

  4. David

    May 7, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    That Liam guy above is completely clueless. He spouted too much rubbish to even begin to address it, but one of the main points is using qualification as a barometer for what will happen in the tournament,when teams who have struggled to qualify have recently won the World Cup.

    Also, CONMEBOL’s qualifying marathon is much more difficult than England’s piss easy group where the biggest challengers were Croatia (in deep decline and suffering major injuries) and the Ukraine (who Scotland managed to beat 3-0 at Hampden in Euro 2008 qualifying).

    That guy up there who ‘expects’ England to make the semis like it’s a foregone conclusion is another example of myopic, misplaced English arrogance.

    All these idiots who are predicting big things for England will be left with egg on their faces. Again.

  5. Liam

    March 3, 2010 at 5:17 am

    This guy has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. For a start, Ashley Cole was and still is the best left back in the world and is having his best season at Chelsea. John Terry is a class act, and Rio Ferdinand although having a bad season at Man United, partly due to injuries, can still hit his best form at the world cup. Glen Johnson is not world class, but he is a very good player and is greatly improved from his Chelsea days. And he hasn’t been in the Liverpool team regularly because he’s been injured, NOT because he’s a poor player.
    Regarding Lampard and Gerrard, what do you mean “the debate has largely been abandoned”. Newsflash! It’s been resolved. Gerrard plays on the right providing support for Lampard while Gareth Barry plays a holding role. Furthermore, “do you know what they call a team that does not have a single natural left winger?” Not England that’s for sure because we have Joe Cole, who has suffered a lot with injuries over the past few seasons, but should hopefully be fit and back to his best for the world cup.
    That just leaves Wayne Rooney. You must feel like a complete tool. I know this was written a few months ago, but it turns out the “good” striker has scored 28 goals so far this season with a flurry of assists. I think that qualifies him as world class. Although Defoe is not on the same level as him, he’s still a good striker who scores a lot of goals. The only things I would agree with you on is the weakness of our goalies and the diabolically bad Emile Heskey.
    Anyway, that leaves England with six world class players with the rest of the team being more than competent. And with the likes of Argentina, France and Portugal all struggling to qualify and England winning 9/10 and scoring 34 goals (by far the most in Europe), I think we have a right to be optimistic.
    Phew. Rant over.

    • Gian

      April 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      was this the sort of overoptimistic england fan you was looking for?

  6. Paul T

    January 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I am english and our overated overpaid fatcat fat ego underskilled football players deserve to lose in the world cup and get knocked out. Their wages and lifestyle are obscene and they deserve nothing. The english people though should not be tarnished with the same brush, we are mostly down to earth working class people like the rest of the world. Our premier league has grown into a vast corporate monster that needs to be stopped. Its got too big and too overated(due to sky satilite tv over here and their vast fortunes!). I for one would like to see a resurgence in serie a, the bundesliga, la liga and other euro/world leauges. Bring football back to the people please!

  7. Paul Bestall

    December 30, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    This after England’s most impressive qualifying campaign in history?? 9 goals past Croatia speaks for itself really.
    I’d hardly say they’re overated, but they’ll never have a better chance to win the World Cup than next year.

    • Paul Bestall

      December 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm

      Oh, and you seem to miss the point that at no time during the friendly defeats did England play a full strength team. Friendlies make absolutely no difference to real tournaments, otherwise the USA would be world beaters wouldn’t they??

  8. Matt G

    December 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    No England are not in the business of winning World Cups however your argument starts to crumble when you bring up McLaren and suggest that his succsess in Holland shows that our failiure to qualify from Euro 2008 was purely down to the players. If that was the case then Fabio wouldn’t have been able to do anything with the players either – instead we dominated our WCQ group.

    Bottom line, McLaren may be a good club manager but he proved utterly hopeless at international level.

    Goalies: You forgot about Robert Green.

    Defense: Upson’s not that bad.

    Midfield: Gareth Barry, Joe Cole, do these guys not exist in your reality?

    Strikers: You talk about Heskey’s goal ratio – that is not why Fabio plays him. Fabio’s Plan A is one goal getter or “assasin” as I call them(Rooney) paired up with a ball-holder(Heskey). It’s not how we did things in the past but it seems to work.

    Again I’m not looking for us to win but I am expecting us to be in the semis.

  9. Tom Hingley

    December 24, 2009 at 8:25 am

    “Am I the only one who thinks West Ham’s Green deserves a chance in goal for Three Lions? He’s solid and steady for the Hammers and I do not recall seeing him commit the gaffes that the incumbents, James and Robinson, seem prone to at the most inopportune times. ”

    Oh dear.

    I take it you haven’t watched any football in the last few weeks?

    Rob Green has been shocking.

  10. jleau

    December 23, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    “Brazil find ways to lose”

    Good Lord that may be the most insane comment I’ve ever read on this site. When did Brazil find a way to lose anything? Let’s see they beat England a month ago, they won the the last major international tournament by coming from behind and 2 of the last 4 WC’s.

    Sure, Brazil just can’t seem to focus and get an important win.

  11. patrick

    December 23, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Thing is you have to look at the teams that England lose to, like Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, France, Germany and the Dutch. Argentina, Portugal and France all have issues. All nearly didn’t qualify. Brazil is not the samba machine they once where and find ways to lose. Germany and Italy both are always strong, but not leaps and bounds above England. And lets be honest, and of those nations is up to be beat. You make the spot kicks, you get through… You know who scares me. The African nations. Ivory Coast in particular.

    As for the break down by position, every nation will face late season injuries, tired players and an aging group of players. Its really just a matter of becoming a team and playing together. Seems really simple, but last cup under Sven, they seemed detached and aloof. And defeated once Owen went out. The question really is, can Fabio get a bunch of over paid players and over blown egos to play together??? Get the formula right, you hold up the cup.

  12. LI Matt

    December 23, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Of course, if Ferdinand is not fit, Plan B is……..? Mathew Upson? Wes Brown? Ledley King?

    Woodgate — if he can put together three straight games without breaking something (King is beyond hope on that count).

    And of course there’s always Lescott, the fourth-most-expensive English player of all time….

  13. Ian

    December 23, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Sorry, the first sentence of that should read “You seem to be getting the British media and English supporters mixed up”.

  14. Ian

    December 23, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    You seem to be getting the British media and English supporters. The majority of England supporters, so far as I am aware, are fully aware of the limitations of the team, and find the media overkill that surrounds every tournament to be thoroughly tedious. But, hey, you know, why go for reasonable debate when you can stoke up a shrill England vs USA argument that will do the protagonists on both sides few favours? To be honest, the writer of this piece is showing up the deficiencies in his own research by describing England supporters as “rabid”. Do better.

  15. Kevin

    December 23, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    WTF at Lennon being “decent.” Currently the best winger in the Prem by a mile.

    • Gian

      April 8, 2010 at 12:37 pm

      LOL Lennon = awful

      Theo for england nuff sed!

  16. Richard

    December 23, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    What a load of shit.

    Too many terrible comments to bother pointing them out.

  17. jleau

    December 23, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    James Milner is exactly the type of player that makes me question an English fans objectivity.

    He’s a decent player and I like the way he fits at Villa but he’s nowhere near world class and is not a difference maker.

    One can debate the definition of “world class”, but for my money England has only two players that really change games, Rooney and Gerrard. Most of the rest are good players but not ones that would force another team drastically change their tactics.

    • Mario

      December 23, 2009 at 1:24 pm

      Good point, mate. Milner is coming into his own at 23 this year for club and country, but his true impact for Three Lions may not be felt until 2014.

  18. Mario

    December 23, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks West Ham’s Green deserves a chance in goal for Three Lions? He’s solid and steady for the Hammers and I do not recall seeing him commit the gaffes that the incumbents, James and Robinson, seem prone to at the most inopportune times.

    • Allen

      December 23, 2009 at 1:51 pm

      No, I really think that Rob Green is a fantastic keeper, but knowing Capello’s blind stubborn nature, I don’t think he will be able to get a spot in South Africa unless something miraculous happens.

  19. Rob Dee

    December 23, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Complete nonsense, Apart from the goalkeepers I’m completely happy with the squad, have you watched Lennon this season? well i have, every game in fact and am sure he will have a big impact in south Africa. Gerrard and Lampard cant play together, Ferdinand past it, no strikers!!! sounds like some old Lalas rant to me!! We may not win the world cup pal but at least we go with hope and thats a damn sight more than the USA will be going with. I’m sure the three lions will be out to prove a point in the first game and thats not going to be fun for America, but lots of fun for me!!!

    • Eddie

      December 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

      Yeah, I guess it’s come to England fans hanging their hats on a win against the US, who we’ve already heard from EPL Talk is crap.

      Everything the author said here is true, except I would agree about the comment about Milner made by B-Mac. Once again, the England squad will be crucified by the British media for not being the overwhelming force that they are falsely built up to be.

      Merry Christmas, everyone!

    • David

      December 23, 2009 at 11:19 am

      I hope your blind optimism doesn’t become some truly typical English hatred if/when the team crashes out of next summer’s World Cup. The US will go into the game with a lot less to lose than England. But just like the gentleman above you, I find it hilarious that you bring up the US, and completely ignore the big picture that the British media has created, that anything less than the trophy is a failure.

      • Allen

        December 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm

        To the problem of wingers:
        Ashley Young

        Have you altogether forgotten that Capello now plays Gareth Barry in that holding midfield position where he is so comfortable?

        And personally, I prefer Agbonlahor to Defoe, but you’re right if not exaggerating that this World Cup squad aren’t made of world champion material.

  20. B-Mac

    December 23, 2009 at 6:39 am

    I think you are overrating a bit England’s Left Wing problem. James Milner has been tremendous as of late and slots in very nicely in the spot. Joe Cole is rounding back into form and could play the spot and it is hardly a worst case scenario to have Gerrard out on the Left Wing with a more holding player like Barry or Carrick in the Central Midfield. I think the real concern for England has to come in with Rio and at Goaltender. I anticipate Green being the man in goal. As for Rio, at this point whoever pairs with Terry won’t seem to cast too much fear for the American attack.

    • David

      December 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

      I don’t think he’s concerned about the American attack. The point is that this is not a world class team. Just a group of guys, a few of which are considered world class, that are playing together. And I find it funny that you mention the US anyways because England have so much more to lose in that game than the Americans. I can see England spending a lot of time on them, and not so much on their own problems.

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