English look on as Euro 2008 shows gulf in class

June 27, 2008

Daniel Guiza

In our area of London, national flags have hung in shop windows, kids have worn team shirts 24/7 and, after a couple of Euro 2008 games, complete bedlam broke out.    

The main road was blocked by dancing crowds and horn-blowing cars raced around the side streets with youngsters hanging out of the windows. The parties have gone on almost until dawn.      

For England fans, watching our Turkish neighbours’ unbelieving joy at their team’s Houdini acts on the pitch has been as close as we’ve got to taking part in the tournament.

But I would bet that for most, this has been the most enjoyable European championship or World Cup since Euro 96 and that night we beat the Dutch.     

Jingoism and club loyalty have been put away for the duration and very cleansing it has been too. In the pubs, you hear fans talking about foreign teams and individual players in an overwhelmingly positive fashion, although Cristiano Ronaldo and Jens Lehmann could be the exceptions to that.       

Instead of sitting on the sofa debating the recovery rates of metatarsals, swearing at Sven’s lack of daring and working out just when we would be knocked out on penalties, England fans have been able to watch most games dispassionately and marvel at the skills of the foreign players.     

We have been doing that for years, of course, in the Premier League. But Euro 2008 has shown up the shortcomings of the self-styled best league in the world and also explains why England never achieve any success.     

The speed at which the English game is played creates a great atmosphere but the speed of thought and deed displayed by teams like the Dutch and Russians, and Portugal in flashes, is rarely seen in the Premier League.

The passing angles and switching of the point of attack in some games were almost an epiphany to those brought up on Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – to name the best rather than the worst.     

Touch and the ability to bring the ball under control whether it comes to you at chest height, to your midriff or straight to your feet is something most English players lack, and yet it is something German players, for instance, seem to be born with.     

And to return to the Turkish team, England’s players just do not feel the same way about representing their country as those men did, and it shows on the pitch. The cream of English football talk the talk about their pride in pulling on the shirt, but do they really feel the same way about it as Fatih Terim’s charges or Bastian Schweinsteiger?      

Club football is all that matters in England and even national coach Fabio Capello will find it hard to change that. 

Robert Woodward, London  

PHOTO: Spain’s Daniel Guiza celebrates his goal during the Euro 2008 semi-final against Russia in Vienna, June 26. REUTERS/Robert Zolles


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Hi Robert, what do you think are the reasons for this lack of pride in England´s team? Do you think the same applies to Portugal´s team ? They did not seem very passionate about wanting to win the match against Germany neither.

Posted by claudio | Report as abusive

I completely disagree with this. I think you maybe suffering from a drunken revelation whilst watching these games down the pub. I think knocking all of the english players pride for playing for their countries misses the mark completely of what is wrong with the english and british teams. You can’t convince me that beckham Shaun wright phillips gerrard john terry and the majority of the other players that have the honour to play for the English team do not have this pride. The problem comes from the strength of the pound and the exessive moneys the top 4 get from the champions league and the catastrophic implications to their clubs should they fall out of this elite band. Liverpools offering 12 million for downing, christiano ronaldo was bought for 12.5m tell me, who would you buy? With this difference in monetary values the top clubs can’t afford to pay over the odds for the english players. This means that the upcomming players in the english leagues aren’t exposes day in day out to the best training and development or being allowed to play with the best players and learn things from the foreign imports. If it wasn’t for the influx of young tallent 10 years ago from the man utd and liverpool camps our teams would have had alot more problems over recent years. If you take out of the equasion the players from just these 2 clubs youth academy, your looking at a team of the quality we all can see comming through the ranks. beckham, scholes, nevilles, butt, owen, gerrard, crouch, etc etc

the problem is that the british players just dont get the chances to develop as much from an early age and that the big 4’s youth development schemes are all filled with foreigners also. bring back leeds and their youth developments!!!!!! hehe

Posted by ArmsteR | Report as abusive

[…] Euro 2008 a harsh reminder to England. (Reuters Soccer Blog) […]

Posted by EuroDose: June 29th – Euro 2008 | Report as abusive


There is an infatuation in America with English football, and I keep arguing that it is time to look elsewhere to learn how the game is played. There is this large emphasis on the physical breakneck pace that people overlook the skill aspect of the game.

There is a bit of truth in the ArmsteR post, but the problem with English football started way before the big four got so financially dominating.


Posted by Pico | Report as abusive

I think one of the main reasons English football has failed and wasn’t mentioned is the fact that not many Englishmen ply their trade outside of the UK.

Posted by Five Times | Report as abusive

England players are over-rated……..England was never missed at Euro 2008. Infact what have they achieved if you look at their past performances….nothing.

It’s now upto Capello to try and change all this, otherwise there are many more unhappy years to come.

Posted by Kogy | Report as abusive

Euro 2008 showed that football has moved on and left Italy behind. Negative dull football doesn’t succeed anymore and nor does anyone want it to. So who do England hire? An Italian manager.

England need a dynamic manager to rip up the blueprint and start again, they won’t get anywhere with Capello.

It’s the FA that’s to blame, they are so out of touch it’s untrue, and now we have them come out and ban competitive football for under 8’s as they can;t handle the pressure of winning. Dear god.

Posted by KG | Report as abusive

Another problem is foreign managers! I do believe that Arsene Wenger etc have had a major impact on the Premier League. However what have they done for English football? Nothing!!! Foreign managers and the academy system were allegedly bought in to improve British players. Yet, all they have done is bring in young foreign players into the academy system and bring in big name foreign imports, to the detriment of English players. Having said that, if I were a manager I would buy foreign players because British, especially English players want more money, clubs want higher transfer fees and the players just don’t warrant the fee. Foreign players though sometimes not suited to the Premier League are technically better than any English player will be. We should be looking at clubs such as Ajax and their youth development programme and use it to improve young British players and not importing young players from abroad. This is not being zenophobic. Unless the Premier League, the FA realise that no young British talent will get a chance, England, Scotland etc will never win a big tournament!!!

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

Interesting points raised by most, but you all forgot one reason….the fans and their influence over the chairmen.
Managers, whether british or foreign, do not get a chance to work at the clubs because the fans want instant results. If it is not there? They vent their disgust by not coming out, the result? The chairman fires the manager!!!
To save their jobs the managers ‘look’ for talent rather than ‘develop’. In looking there is not much available in the UK …so? They look outside!!!

Posted by Lin | Report as abusive