I left England last year after living there nine years. I’ve seen several World Cup and European football tournaments where English hopes have been ridiculously high pre tournament only to end early with disappointing performances not meeting expectations or the perception of the talent in the team.
After the most recent World Cup disappointment (disallowed goals and poor goal keeping withstanding) I’ve wondered whether this has something to do with the English Premier League, generally acknowledged as the highest quality domestic league in the world. And I’ve wondered that although England can field a group of talented players, that’s typically what they are, individual players who struggle to gel as a talented team with limited practice and at the end of a long English season. While looking at South American or other European teams they seem to form teams in the truest sense that quickly gel together and play with quality sometimes greater than their individual parts.
My thinking is that although many of these South American and European players play in a variety of domestic competitions, what sets them apart from the English players is that they at an early age become used to playing away from home, having to fit in quickly to different team structures and cultures in far off leagues with the expectation that they deliver quickly to secure their place in a team. On the other hand English players seem to rarely turn up outside of the English leagues, play a way they always have and our feted as great players in their own league, a place of comfort where there is little expectation that they should be the ones to adapt to fit in with other styles and teams.
Perhaps overly harsh but I think its part of poor English team performances (other views). Where foreign players have developed their talent in different systems and strive to fit into a team wherever and whatever it is, the English are individuals, praised highly in their domestic competition but have not had to struggle through the same adaption process to new leagues or teams in the same way.
Thus like my friends in England I watch and hope that England may actually live up to expectations each tournament but have in the back of my mind that they will always come up short as a team. Through money, location and history England should keep having the best domestic league in the world but as a nation that’s perhaps little consolation ever few years when the World Cup of European Championship comes around.
Perversely perhaps the expectations on all national teams and players is on the up. I shudder to think how the French and Italian press hounded their teams after abject failures in national eyes. Australia with no real history of World Cup performance had the weight of expectation on it back home and there was great media disappointment when it failed to reach the knockout rounds (but perhaps it met realistic expectations). While the USA for example made the knockout rounds coming first in its group over hapless England but also suffered a disappointing exit to Ghana but again I argue perhaps meeting realistic expectations if you had asked pretournament. The media and supporters will always ask for better performances, I was happy these teams competed, but it’s the unexpected successes of teams like Ghana that are the sweetest.
At least the English players and tabloid press that follow them got some sun in South Africa. Clearly a perfect location for a holiday and after a quick exit time to go on safari and explore rather than return to questions of undelivered potential back in England. Personally I wish I was in Africa on safari too.