FIFA and English football still in the Dark Ages

By Mark Duckworth

Fabio Capello is one of the most successful managers of the past decade. He was successful in Italy and Spain, but now his CV is blotted by his time managing the England national side. And it’s not just an insignificant blot, it’s England’s heaviest defeat in a World Cup and a last 16 knock-out. Even Sven made the quarter-finals. So, is it all Capello’s fault or has he just become another victim of the English game and the false promise of talent and success?

Everyone seems to know the score, they’ve seen it all before, and in Bloemfontein Fabio Capello realised what it means to be the England team manager as Germany ran riot over his sorry side.

When Capello took over England the team was at an all-time low, and if he leaves now, it could be even worse for the next manager who puts on the cursed track suit. Capello may be scratching his head in wonder after the almost perfect qualification to the disaster that has been the last three weeks. Cracks appeared for all to see and they have grown deeper and wider as the tournament progressed, but why?

What Was the Downfall of the Three Lions?

Well, the first possible reason could be fatigue. The Premier League is arguably the most competitive and one of the largest in the world, and without a winter break, the top players have little time for rest. They also have the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup to contend with, plus a host of International games. This isn’t a bad argument until you compare the South American qualification zone which plays 18 games, and when you consider most of the top South American players play in Europe, then the English lads can’t really use fatigue as an excuse.

Lack of tactical knowledge, this is the biggest criticism being fired at the English national team, who looked like a pub side on Sunday compared to the Germans. Again this has only recently been noticed in the team that dominated Croatia home and away in convincing fashion. Yes, teams and tactics change with injuries and suspensions, but surely the best players in the Premier League can cope with being played out of position for a game or two.

Take Philip Lahm, the German captain and right back, he played the last World Cup at left back, he is left footed, but for the sake of his team and balance he has sacrificed his personal glory for the team. And here lies England’s biggest problem, the egos of the star players get in the way of team glory. Steven Gerrard may play in the centre for Liverpool with the occasional flirt to the right wing, but for England he has been asked to play on the left. This is something he just does not want to do and in doing so has hurt England by making the pitch narrow and forcing Ashley Cole further forward, something the Germans took full advantage of.

Football and formations are forever changing, but it seems when players swap their club shirts for an England one, all tactical awareness goes out of the window. Capello has also been limited by injuries and poor performances by his star players, but the shocking lack of discipline and organization on the football pitch cannot be overlooked.

England looked out of date in the Free State Stadium and as Germany scored direct from a goal-kick it brought home the realisation that England need a new way of playing not just defending. The defending was bad for the Klose goal, but what made it worse was the way England just gave away the football. If your opposition doesn’t have the ball then they cannot score, something England needs to learn and fast.

The art of defending has changed greatly. A few years ago a centre-half was judged mainly on tackling, heading and his ability to command the box. Football has changed, especially defending. The basics are still there but, movement, anticipation and, more importantly, the ability to start an attack have all become vital, and that is where England failed. With Cole and Johnson pushed wide, the responsibility of playing the ball from the back was left to Upson and Terry, who from time and time again gave away possession causing England to lose their shape and control over the game. Gareth Barry (the injured gamble) whom Capello went with, and will now lose his job with, did simply not work. Carrick may have had a bad season with United, but a fully fit Carrick would have been better than a half-fit Barry who looked a yard short all game.

In the past and in this World Cup, England has been afraid of change, but now is the time for big changes in the squad. In the next four years England will play a European qualification tournament and then possibly the finals and then the World Cup 2014 qualification starts, followed by hopefully, the finals in Brazil.

England can learn from the past and develop a new, younger squad with plenty of the time and games to develop different tactics and formations. David James, John Terry and Frank Lampard should all be shown the door in preparation for a new dawn of Three Lions. Even the eternal hope Wayne Rooney should be given a question mark above his name after another disappointing World Cup which has ended with his World Cup duck in tact.

Wayne Rooney had the hopes of a nation on his young broad shoulders, but he was upstaged by a young German Mesut Oezil who stamped his class all over England. It should have been Rooney doing that to Germany, but with England’s outdated tactics, he very rarely found himself in the correct position to do so. England needs a playmaker and fast because if we continue to develop this style of football then it could be years before we catch up to modern day football.

FIFA Needs Some Sort of Change

This article could have been very different though if FIFA had joined the rest of the sporting world and used video technology to get its big decisions right. With England trailing, 2-1, Frank Lampard’s shot bounced down off the under side of the crossbar and into the net, well that’s what we saw, but the referee and his linesman failed to spot it. I’m not blaming the officials in any way – it was a mistake, but the mistake could have been corrected if the use of technology was made available.

I’m not suggesting we stop the game for every little incident. Maybe allow the managers the chance to challenge one play per game. This would keep the flow of the game and more importantly the human factor of the referee, but allow the referees to get every call right. It seems silly that football hasn’t yet gone down the technology path with Tennis, cricket and ice-hockey, who all use it to enhance the game.

The concerns of football losing its flow seem to be a smoke-screen by FIFA because they do not want to admit they have a problem. The two wrong decisions that took place on Sunday would have been corrected in a matter of seconds, and the correct outcome would have been awarded: a goal in the England match and a disallowed one in the Argentina v Mexico game.

Referees and linesmen cannot get everything right and with the ever changing pace of football isn’t it time FIFA dragged the game out of the dark ages and into the present?

Mark Duckworth is a contributing writer for the National Game. His column appears with written consent.

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