Monday, June 28, 2010

Time for a Makeover

Good riddance! I really couldn't be any more pleased to see the English and Italians stumble out of this tournament in shambles for a number of reasons. Not least of which is entitlement. The Italians entered this tournament as defending champions - so it would only be natural for them to assume a deep run into the tournament is nothing more than expected.  Especially after seeing their draw with Paraguay, Slovakia, and New Zealand.

As for England, well they entered this tournament having not even qualified for the European Championships in 2008. Yet, they still came in thinking a trip to the semi-finals at least was do-able. I mean look at some of the crap they were running before the World Cup started. They are the most arrogant nation when it comes to the sport they invented...even though many are too blind or ignorant to realize they're not even any good.

Well, pathetic display after pathetic display from both teams has rightfully sent them home with no hope of success in the foreseeable future unless serious changes are made.

Let's start with the Azzurri. Marcello Lippi decided to live in the past thinking his aging squad that won the whole thing in 2006 could repeat 4 years later. 4 years older. I think it's pretty safe to say that as a neutral it probably wasn't hard to see how slow that team was.  Ok so he "spiced" it up with the likes of Simone Pepe, Vincenzo Iaquinta, and Alberto Gilardino. Pepe performed ok but overall these players are mediocre at best. Did he really think he'd beat the world with dinosaurs like Cannavaro and Zambrotta at the back. So what if he picked some youth - he picked the wrong youngins! Giovinco and Giuseppe Rossi would have brought the creativity and flair this team was lacking. Antonio Cassano who scored 20+ goals this past season was left home to ponder what he could have done better.

Not only that but he decided to bring 6 Juventus players!! Juventus - Italy's Liverpool this season finishing in 7th place. Age and experience can only get you so far and it seems to have caught up with the Italians. Everyone knows they are staunch defenders and they did a decent job of it. But you need pace to go forward and they just didn't have it. The world knows not to expect any surprises from this team and that's no way to try and win a tournament. Italy paid the price of trying to replicate 2006 without any necessary signs of progress from within the pool of Italian players, and it ultimately provided them a quick return trip from South Africa.

Now my favorite - England. I take no greater pleasure in bashing English players, the English style of football, and any potential those average players think they have. You can make any excuse you want but the fact is, this team and these players are simply not good enough to compete with the biggest clubs in the world (and we're gonna throw the USA into that pool as well because they proved it against us). They are self-centered, arrogant, not very creative, and ever so boring to watch. Not a single player on the English squad could be considered "world class" - save Rooney and Ashley Cole.

I see Capello ranting and raving on the sideline and I feel his frustration. He's revolted by the sight of long ball after long ball after long ball. He wants his back four to pass their way out of trouble and link up with the midfield. But they can't.  He wants Gerrad and Lampard to play together - and they can't. He wants Glenn Johnson to remember to play defense every time he goes forward - and he doesn't. He wants at least a HALF decent goalie - and he can't get one.

I won't pick apart every player one by one because it would be cumbersome. The bottom line is, these guys come from the greatest league on the planet and everyone expects them to be great. And yet the very essence of their domestic success is the fact that almost 2/3 of the people surrounding them aren't English. The individual talent of the Africans, South Americans, and Europeans make these guys look great.  But on their own? It's a bunch of rags.

Compounding this problem is the un-checked spending of hundreds of millions of dollars by the clubs. With all the oil barons and sheiks flocking to England with their riches, a "win now" mentality has risen. Spend big and reap the rewards immediately. As such, nobody has the patience any more to wean the prospects. Why waste time with an 18 year old when you've got a veteran 25 year old in his stead?  And it's not like there isn't talent there. Just ask the under-17 squad that won the European Championships in May. The future for England is right under it's nose.

So what now? Well for Italy they've learned their lesson.  A gamble to see if these aging superstars could still do it failed miserably...but at least there are younger players at their disposal and the next national team coach will be wise to use them. I wouldn't be too worried as an Italian fan because these guys, unlike the English, are very talented and disciplined, and simply need a little bit more experience. The old guard has officially washed up.

For England it's not going to be that easy at all, and I wouldn't be surprised if in 2 years time they don't qualify for the European Championships again. Lampard, Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry will - or at least should - hang up their international boots. There goes your spine for the past decade. Replacements are scarce and those that do exist have zero experience whatsoever. Just look at center midfield for example - your new options would be Michael Carrick and Jack Wilshere... 

With no end in sight for the obnoxious spending at the club levels - where foreign owners could care less about the kids in the academies - England could be in store for a long and ugly road the next couple of years. I just don't see any light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon.

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