I don’t often write about Footy any more on THCB, but England is out of the World Cup today, stuffed 4–1 by Germany. So I thought I’d give my opinion, and for the moment I’m dropping my dual nationality and writing as an Englishman!
Why did we lose? Realistically England doesn’t have enough good players because England’s population is too small (50m vs 80m Germans) and—as pointed out in Soccernomics—the working class ethos against middle & upper class kids limits our potential pool of players even more—as England’s working class population is falling relatively as more kids go to college. In general England could improve our football team by changing its economy to match the slums of Argentina’s or Brazil’s but I wouldn’t take that as a fair trade. After all, the US dominates international sport (except its fifth most important sport soccer) because it has a huge urban underclass with a great feeder system (that’s colleges!) to getting them into basketball/American Football/Track etc. And it may well be that with more and more kids from the big urban centers getting into soccer, America can only improve. It’s a decent prediction that the US will win the World Cup in the next 50 years or so. Unlikely that England ever will again.
Somehow Spain—with a population smaller than England (and to some extent the Netherlands & France) seem to have tapped into some kind of coaching/youth development network system that covers for their lack of population. Spain’s current generation of players is great and has great depth. England simply doesn’t and of course doesn’t allow enough opportunities in its own league for English players to come through because the popularity of the English Premier League means that clubs can spend on more expensive better foreign players. (BTW Major League Baseball is “suffering” from the same problem, as to some extent is Spain’s La Liga).
The result is that when England lose key players who do have skill at their positions (Ferdinand, Hargreaves & effectively Joe Cole and Rooney who were both injured substantially last season and played like it in this World Cup) we replace them with real bit part performers like Upson & Barry. And even players who have been great for club teams have been overplayed and playing injured for way too long. Exhibit A is John Terry who was great between 2002–2008 for Chelsea and England, but has been playing with a never-healed broken toe & herniated disk in his back for years and has lost lots of pace because of it.
Having said all that, I cant be too upset with the performance today. Sure we let in two dreadful goals and it could have been more, but we scored two (and only Upson’s was a German mistake)–albeit one being shockingly disallowed because Blatter is an idiot and won’t allow video replay unlike every other major sport. We also hit the bar and were still taking the game to the Germans in minute 67 when they hit us on the break. Go look at the MBM report which proves that for the last 15 minutes of the first half and first 22 minutes of the second half England was in control and pressing.
What would the whining England fans have rather happen? Pass it around the back and not try to score? We could have been more conservative if that second had counted and the Germans would have been shell shocked at that point.
Finally the turning point of the game—and the moment when England lost it— was when Johnson did not do the obvious & sensible (if cynical) thing). He should have tripped OzilSchweinsteiger when he was cutting across and about to set up Muller for the third German goal. Any European/South American would have taken him down and taken the yellow—rather than let him put a player clear thru on goal.
So perhaps it does come down to better coaching?
Categories: Matthew Holt