They think it’s all over – it is now (almost)
Well here we are. 31 days and 61 matches later, tonight the world cup ends. Dreams will be realised. Dreams will be shattered.
Who will win? The mighty Germans or the artistic Argentina lead by the little maestro Lionel Messi?
After the Germans steamrolling humiliation of host nation Brazil in last Tuesday’s one sided 7-1 defeat, Germany are red, black and white hot favourites to be triumphant tonight. Argentina stand in their way for the third time in a world cup final. It’s 1-1 after their meetings in the 1986 (Argentina) and 1990(Germany) finals.
Thus far superstar Messi hasn’t really imposed his brilliance on any particular match. If he can take the game by the scruff of the neck, get to run and dribble with the ball or better still shoot on target, then Argentina have the capability to win and Messi the chance to enhance his reputation as one of the world footballing greats. My sense is that there is as much chance of the German defence giving him the time and space to do them damage as there is of Jamaica winning the 2018 world cup. With that being the case, the rest of the team will have to step up to the plate. That could well happen, with other players possibly getting a bit more freedom and space as a result of attempts to shackle Messi.
I envisage Germany being very tight at the back, creative in midfield and using their ability to open up the Argentinian defence to score. They won’t be anywhere near as easy to penetrate as the porous Brazilian defence which had more leaks than a sieve on Tuesday night, but, like a drill through concrete, I am sure they will successfully penetrate the Argentinian defence.
I welcome the lack of OTT pile em high, 20 strong group celebrations of their 7 goals on Tuesday. They reminded me of Ivan Lendl’s quote about Andy Murray ahead of Wimbledon 2013. “We’re not here to do semi-final’s,” he said. That sentiment has been evident for some time with this brilliant German side. Even if they score the opening two goals, you’ll not see them get too carried away until they’re absolutely certain the job is done and the World Cup is in the bag. I hope for a great final to cap a great tournament and strongly fancy Germany to win.
The sale on Friday 11 July of Suarez to Barcelona and the interview with Neymar last week highlights once again the unfairness of the penalty handed out to Suarez and the ludicrousness of Columbian defender Juan Zunig getting away with his back breaking(literally) cowardly assault (for that is what it was really as he injured Neymar from behind). If they can use video evidence to charge Suarez why haven’t they done so against Juan Zunig who caused a really serious injury as opposed to Suarez’s relatively innocuous nibble?
Neymar could have been paralysed if Zunig’s knee had caught him a few centimetres higher.
Brazil’s semi-final humiliation, the equally early departure of footballing giants Italy, Spain and Portugal puts into perspective the England performance. Aside from Brazil (LoL) and Spain (1-5 trouncing against Netherlands) there have been no easy games really in this world cup, with most matches being fairly competitive.
Nonetheless we have to ask why England failed to advance from their group and what can they do to improve their 2018 chances?
Essentially I would argue that too few English players are getting the opportunity to play at the highest level in England’s top divisions, the Premier League and to a lesser extent, the Championship. Fabulously entertaining as the Premier League is, it is really a World Premier League, not really The English Premier League.
In the early 1980’s it was something of a novelty to have a world superstar join the 1st Division as it was then, with players such as Argentinian stars Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa playing for Spurs. Later on, the current USA boss Jurgen Klinsmann and former Germany star, also played for Spurs. They brought a touch of world class and glamour to our shores. The theory went they would improve our players technical ability and we’d reach their levels and go forth and prosper.
Alas that has not really happened. 1,527 foreign players have played in the Premier League since 1992/93 season to the close of the 2013/14 season.
“The statistics reflect this concern with the Premier League having one of the lowest numbers of home country players than any other European league. Only 32.2% of starting players are English (2013/14 season), contrast this with the season of 1992/93 where there were only 11 foreign players in the starting line ups, and you can see the pressing issue.”
Huffington Post 12 June 2014
We’ve developed some very good players – such as Alan Shearer and Paul Gasgoine, but even they didn’t really help England win a trophy. Our best effort was Euro 1996 semi-final success on home soil. Other than that England never trouble the post quarter-final stages of the European Championship or World Cup.
No, this theory just didn’t materialise. All it has done is open up the floodgates to far too many overseas players denying British players the chance to play for their local clubs/English teams and develop the England team as a competitive force.
This has happened as, in much the same way as our lax immigration policy, we not just let anybody to come in and play for our clubs, but we’ve also allowed far too many overseas managers to come in and manage our clubs and too many rich oligarchs can easily come and purchase our top clubs – even if they fail the “fit and proper” test such as Man City’s former owner, the ex-Thailand Prime Minister, no less, Mr Thaksin Shinawatra.
It’s therefore no wonder homegrown players don’t get a look in. Arsene Wenger knows French football best and has regularly signed French players. Other managers/owners do the same based on their nationality. What do they care about the development and world success or lack of when it comes to England? Answer – they don’t. Nor perhaps do the fans, so long as their clubs are competing and doing well, they’re not asking too many questions.
I’d love a return to the days when clubs mainly signed players from their town and city, giving realistic hope and opportunities for up and coming footballer, but sadly I can’t foresee that happening.
Even the once mighty Brazil have suffered. Most of their big stars play in European leagues and therefore have adopted a more European style of play and we don’t see that free flowing, creative force of play we grew up watching.
In the absence of a return to the good old days, I would suggest we look to the German model of football ownership. This is best demonstrated by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, which are largely fan owned and have proved to be hugely successful both on the pitch and off it, in financial terms.
Grow your own
We need to limit the number of overseas player to something like a maximum of 4 per club, the rest having to be British players. If we can’t do that we might as well forget about ever winning the European Championship or World Cup.
Similarly we need to stop looking abroad for managers and owners of our clubs who do not have England’s best interest at heart. After all, if I went to manage a German team for instance I’d be looking to England for players/coaches as that’s where the players and managers I know ply their trade. If we can’t get British managers managing English clubs, then it’s little wonder the FA look abroad when it comes to appointing England managers.
We are where we are. We celebrate a wonderful world cup. Enjoy a break from football after tonight, then next month we start all over again as we welcome back the new football season. More joy and heartbreak awaits us all I’m sure.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town