Thomas Williamson explores England's shortcomings...
England got the results they needed against Poland and Ukraine and are on their way to Brazil. However it is highly likely that they will go out on penalties in the round of 16 or quarter finals, as they seem to do in almost every international competition.
The defeat will probably include the scapegoating of an opposition player or the referee to deflect from our own failings. In 2006, we heard endless commentary on why this was our chance to end forty years of hurt, our best chance since 1966 etc. However when we got there, the alleged golden generation produced football was like watching paint dry, and we went out to Portugal on penalties.
Also, somehow Cristiano Ronaldo was somehow to blame for our rubbish football. What is it about our national team that means they fail to produce every two years, why the same things keep happening- shootout defeats, scapegoat opposition players and officials?, despite consistently producing some very talented individual players.
The first problem is the 1966 World Cup win. If you take that away then we have never won anything at international level- meaning that we are closer to the likes of Ireland and Sweden.
That win has been a burden ever since, as the country has been convinced that we really are capable of winning the tournament regularly. However 1966 was a one-off, a fluke brought about by our hosting the tournament and so playing in front of our home fans, just as at Euro 96 we were able to get to the semi-finals due to playing our games at Wembley. There are many examples of countries doing better when hosting an international tournament. Look at South Korea in 2002, who got to the semi-finals when hosting the tournament.
Few would argue that South Korea were really better than the likes of Italy or Spain who they beat in the tournament that year, but playing at home, in front of their own fans. What this shows is how 1966 placed an unfair burden on all subsequent squads who were expected to live up to it rather than accept it was a one-off.
The second issue with the England team is their mentality. They lack the team spirit and burning desire to win that teams such as Germany, Italy and Argentina have. Italy were so determined to win in 2006 that one of their players was willing to wind up Zinedine Zidane until he was sent off.
In 2006 the alleged golden generation was full of players who were earning huge sums for their clubs and who couldn’t be bothered to play for England. Since 1966 footballers have earned more and more so have becoming increasingly remote from supporters, so have become less and less aware of what an honour it is to play for their country. In my view this leads to situations such as 2006.
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