1. Abolish expectation
Brazil have it because they own five world titles. Spain had it because they were reigning European champions. But no country who have appeared in one World Cup final (and that, on home soil) since joining the party in 1950 has the right to march into a tournament chuntering about “pressure”. As countless neutrals observed in South Africa — and Fabio Capello said it himself — the England shirt turns men into mice. The reason: a misreading of history, and an inability to distinguish between Premier League wealth and international success. When England are honest about their record they might stop feeling this self-generating “pressure”.
2. Success is planned
England's 2003 rugby World Cup victory was the culmination of a four-year project but the Football Association still thinks hiring big name coaches and throwing together the country's best 23 players will make it all right on the night. Spain invested heavily in coaching and Germany absorbed the lessons of a dire Euro 2000 campaign to reform the national youth programme. The FA, which is consensus obsessed, needs to get nasty and drive the philistines from grass-roots and schoolboy football. Anyone who refuses to adhere to raised technical standards copied from the Dutch, Germans and Spanish should not be allowed to teach children the vocabulary of the game.
3. England's style of play is archaic
Here Capello must pick up the tab for sending out a side to play 4-4-2 when most of the top nations were using 4-2-3-1. To see Emile Heskey or Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney playing in a flat line ahead of an equally rigid four-man midfield was mortifying. Germany's Jürgen Klinsmann writes of his time as Germany's coach, when he worked with Joachim Löw (from 2004-2006): “'Jogi' and I began the whole regeneration process by trying to give our national team an identity. We eventually decided to go down an attack-minded route, passing the ball on the ground from the back to the front line as quickly as possible using dynamic football.”
4. England internationals still don't think enough about the mechanics of their game
Jamie Carragher is one honourable exception, but his former Liverpool team-mate, Xabi Alonso, remembers asking Anfield academy boys what their main attribute was and being told: “Tackling.” Young English players are allocated single positions and rarely think outside the tram lines of those narrow vocations. The young Germans, Thomas Müller and Mesut Ozil, can open up a pitch with angled passing and running. Spain and Holland (when they are not in warrior mode) are fluid and flexible. The English intelligence remains disengaged.
5. “We need to improve from [the ages of] 5-11 and 11-16, to get creative players who try the unexpected,” says Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football.
There is no English Wesley Sneijder, Ozil, Xavi or Andrés Iniesta. Joe Cole is the closest but a succession of club and international managers have given up on him as a No10. Over the past 20 years, Paul Gascoigne was a rare artistic presence but wrecked himself. Teddy Sheringham was a clever deep striker. Paul Scholes, the best English midfielder since Gazza, was mis-used. He was seldom able to orchestrate games as he did for Manchester United. Improvisation and self-expression remain un-English qualities.
6. Countries with big manpower gaps are doomed
While the world's best were switching to two holding midfielders Capello was haranguing the barely-fit Gareth Barry to perform a role he no longer fills at Manchester City. Without Owen Hargreaves, England lacks a single credible defensive midfielder from the Bastian Schweinsteiger-Alonso school. There is no world-class cover for the full-backs, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole, and no English winger who can deliver reliable crosses. James Milner had to be sent back to his old right-sided berth to compensate for the inadequacies of Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
7. There is still no end to England's celebrity-driven isolationism
To hide in a compound in a remote location only distorts the self-image of the players. Yet again England failed to engage with this World Cup. Where was the trip to Robben Island, in Cape Town? Players from other countries were seen both there and at the apartheid museum in Johannesburg. English football infantilises its stars. Capello's squad wore a suffering look from the moment they touched down. Brazilians and Germans behave as if national service is the pinnacle of their working lives. England look like prisoners.
8. Achieve harmony between the different groups of organising bodies
Unless Premier League clubs stop blocking the release of England youngsters for Under-19 or Under-17 duty (some are told that money-making pre- season tours are more important than mid-summer international tournaments) then no-one will take seriously the top division's claim to be pro-England. The successful countries achieve harmony between the leagues, coaches and their FA. Klinsmann again: “We quizzed everyone we could. We held workshops with German coaches and players, asking them to write down on flip charts three things: how they wanted to play, how they wanted to be seen to be playing by the rest of the world and how the German public wanted to see us playing.”
9. Fitness of players is actually important
England were not alone in shipping unfit players to South Africa. Brazil admit Kaká turned out with a thigh injury and Spain's Fernando Torres laboured through the first five games. But England topped the charts. Ledley King lasted 45 minutes. Barry, who looked heavy and slow, had been rushed back into action via an oxygen tent. No coach would have left Wayne Rooney behind but he, too, displayed an absence of faith in his own body.
10. None of the other 31 nations here moaned about being tired
English football is only marginally more gruelling than the top leagues in Spain, Italy or Holland. Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool and Holland) and Sneijder (a Treble winner with Internazionale) were still going like trains, all the way to the final. The truth may be that England are afflicted by ennui: an unconscious desire to be somewhere, anywhere, else, brought on by constant exposure to failure and ridicule. Their “tiredness” may be spiritual.
© Guardian News and Media 2010
Keywords: 2010 World Cup