I’ve been living in England for quite a few years now, my first memory of the national team was France 98, when an England side bristling with talent went down to Argentina in the Last 16 and a nation mourned. Well ok they didn’t, they moaned and groaned and brutalised their way to blaming David Beckham as if the devil himself was one of England’s finest. A disgrace the people shouted! How could such a man ever represent England again called the press as Beckham lurched closer and closer towards the gallows being held arm in arm by two beefy looking men with leather trousers and hoods for clothing. The end was near, off with his head was bellowed nationwide! By god did his mouth drop as…..he was offered the England captaincy by a smooth lady playing Swede, a mere couple of years later.
Football is indeed a funny old game I’m sure such crazy stories of zero to hero happen in every nation the world over. But I very much doubt they happen so frequently as they do in the country that gave us the Beatles, Tea and Cricket. This whole scenario about England is summed up from a few days before the Wales game to the draw Ghana a few days later. I usually skip over Internationals but couldn’t help but hear about the fact that after 3 years in the job, Señor Capello still couldn’t master the English language, blasphemy! I chuckled in the knowledge that most English people can barely speak the Queen’s English let alone a foreign language so the idea that an Italian couldn’t speak English tickled me a little. But to be fair I can understand the complaint, Capello has took the job of coaching the ENGLISH national team, not the Italian one. Questions have started to be asked in the last twelve months about whether Capello can communicate his tactics to his players. Rio Ferdinand would possibly argue that he can’t talk on a personal level let alone communicate the idea of man-marking in comparison to zonal.
Amongst all this Capello bashing we see the ‘John Terry Saga’ come to it’s conclusion. A year ago the captaincy was stripped from his arm amid claims of adultery and I’m sure other heinous crimes concocted by websites a lot more sleazy than this one. Like Beckham after France 98 Terry was hung in public and rightly so I would argue. Being the captain of your country means you are the biggest role model for your nation and every single primary and secondary school child will look up to you, it is the biggest honour that can be bestowed in my humble opinion. But, like many questionable decisions that’s been made in the past week, Mr Capello saw fit to hand the armband back to Terry and it really hasn’t been the furore it should of been. I don’t understand how a little over a year ago this human being was vilified beyond belief yet now that he’s captain again the average guy on the street will just shrug his shoulders and put any thought of Terry’s misdemeanours to the back of his thought’s and carry on.
But I’ve not even got to the crux of what confuses me the most with England. A few months ago after the 4-1 hammering by Germany in the World Cup, England were the lowest of the low, an awful team. Capello must go! Bring in the youngsters! Bring in ‘Arry! You name it it was probably said, morale and anything associated with the national team was dragged through the dirt. Fast forward a few months later 10 points out of 4 games in probably the weakest European Championship Qualifying group ever created and there’s optimism streaming out of every hole you can find in the country. Most of it surrounds Capello’s use of a 4-3-3 and a video of Barcelona that was watched before the Wales game. Don’t get me wrong now, I think players like Wilshire give England a real chance to be bullish for the future, key word being future. Just because you have an outstanding prospect now doesn’t mean it’ll turn out for the best, Michael Rickett’s anyone?
The arrogance as well, there is a swagger and confidence about the England team over the years that come’s from no where. A demand and a need from the media and fan’s that the World Cup must be won or else it’s failure. England haven’t won a major honour since 1966 in a competition held in their own country. England haven’t been at a major final since 1966 either, in fact they have appeared in only 3 Semi-Finals at the World Cup and European Championships’ since 66. If we combine all competitions the record looks patchy at best with 5 Quarter Final exits, 3 Round of 16 knock-out’s, 4 Group Stage farewell’s and seven time’s they have failed to even qualify. Not the worse record at all given the competition they face at this level but is it enough to justify expecting to win competitions every two years at the drop of a hat? I think even the most ardent England fan would agree it’s hard suggest otherwise.
I’ve also taken a look at recent result’s against the real creme de la creme of world football as I couldn’t for the life of me remember the last time that England made a real statement by defeating one of the World’s top teams. It turns out the last time was a 3-2 victory over Argentina way back on the 12th of November 2005. In the five and a half years between that result and the Ghana one last Tuesday England have lost to France (twice), Germany (three times), Brazil and Spain (twice). They have recorded draws against Brazil and Holland as well though but secured no victories. Most of those games have indeed been friendlies but even so, a real top team would be winning games at least some games at the highest level, no?
England have a good team, I don’t doubt that. This isn’t an anti-english article but I really am at a loss as to where the optimism comes from and the strange anglo-italian adultery captain thing that makes the England team seem like one big soap opera. Sometimes just a little bit of humility and a realisation that they’re not the best would do the team a bit of good, I guess the one positive for England is that I could so easily have been writing this article about Spain five years ago, football is a funny old game isn’t it?