Matthew Holt

Why England is out of the World Cup

Matthew holt

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

9 replies »

  1. The keeper knew that England goal was in but Football is about the classless sport going and he never said anything. Unlike, for example, golf where Brian Davis calls a penalty on himself costing himself 400k and his first victory.
    I don’t think that an intentional foul, had england committed it is any worse than having seen the ball cross the line and to pretend or not admit it did…………
    Footballers are like school on saturday………….no class

  2. It must be hard, Matt, to acknowledge that the Empire has lost yet another of its competitive advantages. I think this has nothing to do with a country’s population nor much else along those lines. Soccer players have now become commoditized and travel to play in leagues all over the world. While I think a lot lies with the coach and his ability to create a great team atmosphere and spirit, what happens in the World Cup is a matter of very small distinctions of play on the particular day of the match. Sure, there are differences, but once that first goal is scored, it is almost impossible for the other team to win, even if they are “better.” That first goal often arises from a momentary defensive lapse or a mistaken officiating call.
    Apropos of all this and for your amusement, I reprint a joke going around a bunch of us referees a few months ago:
    At the end of a hard-fought and contentious game, the referee was making his way to the parking lot when he heard a voice calling him in an urgent manner. “Hey, ref!”.
    Turning around he nervously noted one of the coaches approaching him. “Yes?” he replied, anxiously.
    “I have your cell phone,” said the coach, holding the phone out to him.
    “How do you know it’s mine?” he asked.
    “Look! It says ’10 missed calls’!”

  3. Joerge. Sportsmanship???? If that existed in Football the German keeper would have not pretended that the ball didn’t go over the line. And if we’re going to discuss sportsmanship form German keepers, remember 1982 when Harald Schumaker almost killed Battiston?
    And the ref missed that one too…
    And if you want to use the 1966 argument, yeah, England scored a fourth then too. Who knows whether that would have happened if Germany was level

  4. England needs to open up its feeder source to anyone wanting to play and advance. Restricting the source of talent is stupid. England either wants to win or not. Brazil wants to win. So does Germany.

  5. Pretty good assessment, particularly about the German-England game.
    As far as the programs of the US and England are concerned, the economics are one thing, the enabling players to move their hips might go further in bringing their game up to that of the South American teams.

  6. I am shocked, literally shocked, that the German keeper and defenders allowed the obvious goal to be denied. How could they live with themselves, knowing that they basically cheated. Would they not want to better win with integrity? Golfers have such integrity. Soccers should take integrity lessons from the clubbers.

  7. Did I read something about “old players”. Oh for youth!
    Many moons ago I promised to stop playing soccer for fun and to take up less injury prone activities like running. Well low and behold having coached soccer for a few years I said I would be a better coach if I played again. So I joined an adult league. Just as the World Cup was beginning, my enthusiasm and unrealistic perception of my own ability were on the rise and I ended up with a torn ACL/MCL in a game two weeks ago. My kids said a mom of my age really shouldn’t be playing like that. Regardless what I love about watching all these games is the passion and yes national pride! And yes thanks USA for giving us something to celebrate….. We were cheering for UK next…. Ghana maybe?

  8. uh, wow. So you are suggesting committing fouls is a sign of better coaching? What happened to Sportsmanship?
    Look, Matt, I understand you are upset. I would be, too.
    It’s not the fault of the German team that the 2nd goal wasn’t given, and I wish it would have, because now the game is tainted. If it’s a consolation to you, Germany have been suffering and arguing forever about Wembeley 1966, and no other than Camebridge University found out fairly recently that indeed it was not a goal. So we’re even now. You got a goal that was none, now you didn’t get one that was. BUT: I agree with the Daily Telegraph’s analysis that that goal can not explain the second half. England came out in the 2nd half and looked liked they can equalize. But they didn’t. I wouldn’t over analyze it though – the German team is very young, the English pretty old. Many of the German players just played in the Youth teams, while many of the English are closer to retire. I don’t buy your social analysis at all. I do not thing Soccer is a lower class sport – definitely not here in the U.S., and not in Germany either. I coach a U6 team with my daughter, and US youth soccer is great, and very diverse. Don’t worry too much. I think Argentina would have eliminated England, just as they will Germany. And England will build a younger team and we shall meet again!