The England under-21’s are out of the European Championships after losing 3-1 against Norway yesterday.
Stuart Pearce’s side started brightly, but the Norwegians gradually came into the game and took their chances.
England headed into this tournament with high hopes, after five consecutive clean sheets prior to the tournament.
This defensive record was always going to be tested at the competition, but the Three Lions have now conceded four goals in just two games.
England was always going to depend heavily on their solid backline, as Stuart Pearce’s squad lacked a genuine quality central striker. Wilfried Zaha played up-front last night against the Norwegians and did not look fully-fit.
Zaha had missed the first game against Italy through injury and was obviously not fully-fit to play in this clash. There is also questions marks about whether he is best utilised as a striker or a winger.
Rather like the current senior set-up England are badly lacking in the striking department. The likes of Connor Wickham and Marvin Sordell are never going to set the world alight. Wickham has struggled to play much first team football since moving to Sunderland, despite being touted as a future star at former-club Ipswich.
Marvin Sordell currently plies his trade in the English Championship with Bolton, not exactly great preparation to play against some of Europe’s top young teams. Nathan Delfouneso is England’s other striking option in the squad.
Like Sordell, he is 22 and although contracted to Aston Villa, spent last season on-loan at Championship Blackpool, where he found the net just 6 times in 40 appearances. Once an exciting talent his career seems to have drifted off course.
I do not want to pick on just the strikers though. Throughout the England squad, there are major deficiencies. The squad and team are simply not good enough. England boss Stuart Pearce had done the best he could with a limited squad.
However, as a so called ‘big European football nation’ we should be doing better at tournaments like this. There is a major problem though that has blighted the British game in the last two decades though.
Lack of experience
Young English players are struggling to get the experience they need at club level to become great players on the international scene. Promising young players are farmed out to the Championship to gain first experience, but playing in the Championship is not the same as playing in the top flight.
The problem is now a long-standing one in the English game. Young English stars burst onto first team scenes at Premier League clubs and then just fizzle out, because they are sent out to second tier club were they become complacent and disenchanted.
Can the coaches in the Championship really develop players to the same standard as coaches in the Premier League? They cannot, otherwise those said coaches would be coaches at top-flight clubs.
A good example of how things should work is Germany. When Bayern Munich met Dortmund in the Champions League final both teams contained a number of German players. Bayern fielded five German players and Dortmund fielded seven.
I very much doubt that if two English sides meet in the same circumstances the numbers would be the same. I know everybody drones on about the way Germany have turned their football fortunes around, but it is very much true.
Germany may have lost their opening game of the tournament 3-2 to Holland, but the Dutch are one of the most experienced teams in the tournament, whereas England’s opponents Norway were rank-outsiders.
English youngsters are given no chance to progress at the big clubs. Until this changes then England will struggle at all levels of international football. The senior teams’ inability to perform is a symptom of the problem.
The mentality of the English footballer has to change, from top to bottom. There seems to be a lack of passion to perform for their nation, which the top footballing countries do not seem to have.
England is supposed to be a patriotic country, yet the footballers are more interested in their wage packets than the pride of the country. This has to change somehow, or England will never be successful at any level of the world game.
This game was not an isolated incident. England teams have had their deficiencies exposed for years now. The performance against Norway was probably not the worst I have seen from an England team, but it exposed all the long-standing inadequacies of English football.
The lack of killer passes from midfield, a lack of creativity and any sort of technical ability throughout the team. This problem will not be solved overnight, but for the sake of English football, the inadequacies have to be addressed or England teams will never progress.
Should England teams be performing better at tournaments?