By Niall Clarke
- English football is not as good as people think.
- England are nothing more than an average side.
- Premier League is not as good as it is made out to be.
England’s defeat to Iceland has left the nation angry, embarrassed, and pondering what lies next for the Three Lions.
Of the many realisations that have reared their heads since the Euro 2016 exit, none ring true more than the notion that English football is not as good as we think it is.
All credit must go to Iceland for the way they performed on Monday. They were passionate, organised and worked together to achieve victory. It is not the defeat that left the nation seething at Brexit 2.0, it was the performance.
In a very lacklustre 90 minutes. England barely registered a chance on the Icelandic goal. They were slow, they were wasteful, and to put it bluntly, they were embarrassing. Many have pitted the blame on Roy Hodgson for his selection and tactics, others blame the players for a lack of passion, either way there is no denying the arrogance that surrounds English football.
Yes, England were expected to beat Iceland and rightfully so, but many supporters, pundits and perhaps even the team itself took victory as a given. Before a ball was even kicked people were looking ahead to a quarter final clash with France on Sunday rather than focusing on Iceland.
It is odd to think that a nation whose top domestic division was won by a 5000/1 underdog would underestimate anyone, but that is precisely what happened. Iceland were overlooked from the second they secured qualification from Group F. There was relief that England would be facing them instead of Portugal, a relief that did not see the bigger picture.
Anyone who had previously watch Iceland would know they are a good team. They finished second in their qualification group above Holland and earned the same spot in Group F. Anyone who had watched England in the group stages would know they had been struggling to break down tough defences, and that is exactly what Iceland provided.
Former England striker Dean Ashton on TalkSport: “The way Roy has handled himself since last night, I just find it disgusting.
“I just cannot believe the arrogance of the man to come out and be the way he has been, in terms of saying ‘I don’t know why I’m here’.
“That’s just saying to all English football fans as if they’re just a piece of dirt and he doesn’t really care.”
There is a sense of entitlement in this country. Despite not reaching the last four of a major tournament for 20 years, England are still considered one of the elite footballing nations, and for what reason? It has been 50 years since England won the World Cup, and since then they have only won six knockout matches. The Three Lions’ tournament record is poor and does not ring of an elite nation at all, it is time to accept that ‘we’ are not that good.
“We are blinded by the Premier League. We think it’s the best in the world for talent. It’s not. We are totally reliant on foreign players and managers for excitement. We are not as good as we think we are.” Alan Shearer on England via BBC Sport.
The former England striker is right. While the Premier League is considered the best league in the world by many, it is not. Whether you find it the most exciting or not is entirely opinionated, but does it boast the best talent in the world? No it does not. It only takes a quick look at the recent performances in European competition to realise that the Premier League is not home to the best players in the world, and many of it’s stars are actually foreign imports.
If you run down the England team, is there anyone that can be considered world class? Joe Hart is not on the level of a Manuel Neuer or Gianluigi Buffon. The defence has nobody you can consider among the elite of the game. Wayne Rooney may have been on that level a few years a go but he is clearly past his best at this point. The midfield certainly does not boast a Luka Modric type, and despite having great seasons, can you really class Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy on the same level as a Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez? Others may have the potential to become world class, but they are not there yet.
The fact is we are blinded by many different things. We are blinded by the hype English players receive after a few good performances. We are blinded by this notion of the Premier League being the best in the world. We were blinded by a perfect qualifying campaign and friendlies leading up to the tournament. We are blinded by this sense of self entitlement that we belong with the elite nations.
England are a decent team but nothing more. Reaching the quarter finals would be considered a success. There was certainly more than five teams better than England in the Euro 2016 draw. Defeat in the round of 16 is the same result as better teams such as Croatia and Spain, and Iceland were the better team on the night and during the competition as a whole.
It is time to accept that England are not elite, and in order to be at that level it must require more than a change in management. English football needs to be restructured from top to bottom, starting at grass roots level. Let’s follow the example set by others and stop being arrogant, because we are not as good as we think we are.
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