Before we ask ourselves this question, we should really be asking if England are good enough to QUALIFY for the tournament.
The answer to that one is pretty simple. Yes. Even without a fully strong squad, we should in theory beat the likes of Montenegro and Ukraine to the automatic qualifying spot, but that doesn’t mean it’s a surety. Note the words “in theory”. Everyone remembers the famous Beckham free-kick in the dying moments to send us to Japan/South Korea and the fact that we didn’t even manage to make it on the plane to Euro 2008. We seem to do it the hard way, but that’s England.
But say we did qualify, which hopefully we will, would we be a match for the likes of Spain or Germany? In my opinion? No. The truth is, is that we just aren’t good enough and I think everyone is starting to recognise that. It’s been almost fifty years since we won a major trophy and in that time Germany and Spain have managed to bag themselves eight between them. For the last few tournaments we’ve run ourselves on euphoric adrenaline fuelled by the media and built up from some good performances in the late 80s and early 90s. But that buzz is starting to die out.
Lack of Experience
We’ve resorted to experimenting with different managers and fresh captains, a brand new state of the art training centre and a supposed focus of bringing through younger, better players. And that’s the one area I believe we are failing in. No matter what people say, we do have some very good young players coming through the ranks, talented individuals who hopefully will go on to do great things. The problem is not how we train them or their education at a young age, but the lack of time they are left to develop and the pressure that is put on their ability. A perfect example of this is in Ross Barkley. Early this year he was just a 19 year old out on loan at a Championship team, not setting the football world alight but learning the craft and trade of the sport nonetheless. A few months later and a handful of good performances back at his parent club and he receives a full England call up and the back pages of the newspapers. To put it into context, Spain’s latest debutant Koke, has 12 U21 caps to his name and over eighty appearances in their top league. Andros Townsend, Ross Barkley, and Raheem Sterling have just ten U21 appearances between them, the latter two have yet to reach thirty professional games for their clubs, yet all were called up to the recent World Cup Qualifiers.
Yes, we have had injuries and yes we do have a lower quantity of home grown players coming through when compared to some countries, but it is the whole pyramid of England’s international system that needs the FA’s focus. The Under-21 team used to be a stepping stone for young talent, but is now seen by many as merely a stumbling block, as time after time it is bypassed. Why have a youth side if it’s not being utilised? Spain are continuously winning tournaments at all ages, because they understand how important it is to let their players learn how to fly before pushing them out of their nests. Players will grow up together through the age groups, knit together and learn not just how they themselves play but how their teammates minds tick also. In contrast, many of the players in this country are becoming complacent peaking at such a young age. Reaching a high level with merely a few games under their belts, driving round in brand new Bentleys and they feel they’ve made it. They’ve hit their late teens and already they’ve crossed a number of milestones in a matter of months. Can they really have learned all there is with so little experience within the game?
So will we win the World Cup anytime soon? Hopefully, but unlikely. Obviously there are many other factors to take into account, but until we address the problem of “too much, too soon”, and stop fast tracking players with a hint of talent we could be waiting a long time.