England. In a footballing context, we can define the country as a once proud superpower of the Beautiful Game, but in recent years a dismal failure, far from the glory of ’66 and “Bobby’s Lions”. Under Fabio Capello, the team crashed out of the 2010 World Cup in the Round of 16 and with Roy Hodgson in charge, the Three Lions exited Brazil 2014 at the group stage, without winning any of their games. Couple that with a Euro 2016 Round of 16 defeat to (an impressive) Iceland (!), and it seems to be justifiable to brand the English national team as disappointments. However, there seems to have been a revival under Gareth Southgate in the run up to Russia 2018. With a favourable group draw, there is a sense of optimism in the England camp. They still won’t win it though, for three main reasons.
- No Winter Break
One of the keys to the triumph of Germany at the 2014 World Cup was the fact that the Bundesliga (Germany’s top flight) has a winter break system. This gives the players a rest during the season, while the English players are still battling through games in the Premier League, arguably the world’s most competitive championship. This means that when the Three Lions turn up to international tournaments in the summer, key players such as Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling should be recovering from their packed schedule. This results in a depleted squad playing against fully fit national teams, and in recent years early exits.
- Harry Kane’s Fitness
After injuring his ankle against Bournemouth in Matchweek 30, Harry Kane has been ruled out until May, and faces doubts over whether he will be fully fit for the World Cup. He is undeniably England’s best player, and his loss will heavily affect Gareth Southgate’s plans for Russia. The relative lack of quality of other English strikers will dent the Three Lions’ scoring chances, and Kane’s injury will demolish the team morale. The absence of a Golden Boot-Winning Striker will force the team to play a more defensive style of football, inviting more pressure and with problems with the solidity of the back four, conceding more goals.
- Lack of Continental “Education”
A reason for the successes of the Spanish, French and Brazilian national teams is that a large proportion of their squads play abroad, many of which play in the Premier League. Even though the Premier League is one of the toughest in the world, young English prospects must play abroad for some time to learn different philosophies and improve certain aspects of their game. Playing abroad will not only allow them to anticipate the play of other national teams, but also increase the versatility of the Three Lions. Players such as Antoine Griezmann (who joined Real Sociedad’s youth academy at 15), David De Gea and Philippe Coutinho have become integral components of their respective national teams not only due to their ability, but also the skills that they learned from playing in foreign leagues. Currently, the highest profile Englishman playing abroad is Jadon Sancho, a 17 year old winger, who swapped Manchester City for Dortmund in a £9 million deal, to get minutes and take his talent to the next level. He is developing his abilities and learning a foreign brand of football, but more young players must make the move abroad to achieve an improvement in the national set up.