Such an Ode To Joy that would be.
The reign of Spain is heading down the drain..
Who would have thought it, ay?
Well, certainly not me. I thought Spain were so far ahead and the gulf between them and the rest so great, that they would wear their crown as the planet’s top international team for many a year to come. If a totally drab semi-final bore-fest against Italy in the Confederations Cup, suggested that they are no longer the force they used to be, then their three-nil thrashing by Brazil in the final confirmed it.
I suppose it was inevitable but nevertheless it is always disappointing when you see the once great brought low. It’s a great shame because Spain looked like the best team I had seen since I hacked Sensible Soccer, on my Amiga, and won everything.
Not as though it made much difference to the FIFA world rankings when they came out this week. They are still well ahead of everyone else but the 500 points which represents their lead over the Germans, seems to flatter them nearly as much as England only being 279 points behind the Germans. But at least England (15th) can take consolation for being considered a whole 7 points better than football giants Switzerland, in the place below them, and that the once great France team trail back in 23rd position. Belgium’s rise to 10th seems to confirm the rumour that they have a bloody good team these days.
England’s decline which was old news to most supporters, added to the fact that England teams at every age-level have been embarrassed in recent tournaments, has prompted speculation that the market-driven conditions of the Premiership are not the best environment for English talent to thrive in.
As might be expected, Richard Scudamore was trotted out to tell us it was all nonsense.
I suppose you can make a intuitive case that players can’t get better by not playing and that the habit of the football plutocracy of snapping up every player of even moderate promise and either exiling them in their reserves or loaning them back to a club at a lower level, is not really in the best interests of their progress, even if the lads personally get to enjoy better pay and better toys.
The counter-argument might be that the higher standards of skill and professionalism which the Premiership free-market discipline promotes, should raise the standards at every level, and that if that is not happening then there is something wrong with the system or the culture which underlies that system.
It seems likely that in the reality the problem arises from a mixture of both.
There seems little doubt that in the case of Holland, Brazil and even Belgium, that the tendency of their clubs to sell their best players to foreign leagues, provides openings and opportunities for young players to play at the top level, as players move on. But there is also little doubt that other countries tend to produce different kinds of players than the English. I think everyone has a preconceived idea of how a German, an Italian, or a South American is likely to play. Our expectations are most definitely based upon a stereotype but as facile and as limited a stereotype may be, they are never a million miles from the truth.
Germans get better results than their technical abilities suggest they deserve. The Italians are known for their grabasnachio and like to defend. The Spanish know how to pass. The Brazilians like to show-off. And the English tend to disappoint.
I have to say that everytime I see an England team demonstrate their inability to pass the ball or lack the bottle to win a penalty shoot-out, I always conclude that the problem is cultural; even if I think a bit more practice might have helped.
The English culture is not sympathetic to show-offs. Passing the ball is messing about. And, practicing too much is cheating.
Anyway, in the meantime, we all get the chance to see if that same football culture which produces so many disappointing male players, has defied that trend and is producing world-class female players, as next week the UEFA Women’s Euros kick off in Sweden and I am very much looking forward to it.
As might be expected, the same Teutonic culture which has produced seemingly endless teams which have won more international tournaments than is usually comfortable to acknowledge, has produced a women’s team which has dominated the world game but even more so. So its very much the case of who can beat the Germans. In the absence of the Americans (their only real rivals), or the Japanese (the new emerging force), the only question is who is going to play the German Mädeln in the final.
Even with Germany as clear favourites, there will still be a lot of interesting questions, yet to be answered. How good will the Germans be without Birgit Prinz, one of the best female players of all time (retired)? Is England’s star player Kelly Smith still the force she was, at 34? Have England got anyone coming through of the same class to replace her? And, how much make-up will the French ladies be wearing? Ooh, la la!
Its going to be fun and it would be fantastic if England’s Women went one better this time round and managed to beat the Germans in the final.
Such an Ode To Joy that would be.
Keep the faith!