England needs to learn from failure of 'Golden Generation'
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa -- Monday afternoon, the inquest into England's worst defeat in World Cup history will begin in earnest.
He did make some mistakes, of course: relying on a less than fit
Capello can be forgiven for blaming Uruguayan assistant referee
Over all, the players' reaction to the devastating defeat at the hands of their "arch enemy" (Lampard) reflected a welcome sense of realism. Captain
"We can't use the (disallowed Lampard) goal as an excuse", the 30-year-old Liverpool midfielder said. "For me to stand here and say that moment was the reason we lost would be a lie. Germany were the better team over 90 minutes."
While Germany defender
"Things conspired us against us, tonight," he said, "sometimes we conspired against us."
But Lampard, 32, also had a slightly different take on the result.
"No one can tell me that Germany were a lot better than us, not '4-1' better than us," he said.
This was a bit of the old delusion that had befallen the "Golden Generation" and significantly contributed to their downfall: the idea that the team's talent and array of big names alone entitled them to achieve great things.
Behind the Chelsea midfielder,
Unlike their colleagues from Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga, Premier League players are used to facing the media on their own terms, in other words: rarely at all. English football absolves them of the need to face the music at inopportune times, of the need to confront uncomfortable issues, of the need to pause and reflect on things. It shouldn't. Not because the players owe a duty to the media -- their ultimate pay-masters -- nor because the supporters have a right to hear from their stars. No, behaving like any other professional athlete would first and foremost benefit the players themselves. Engaging with criticism makes you grow as a person, builds the character, grounds you. Living in a bubble, not dealing with reality ensures your development is permanently arrested, on the other hand.
We can talk tactics, too, of course,
"We knew that Gerrard and Lampard always support the forwards and that the midfield would be open, there would be spaces," the 50-year-old explained. "Our objective was to use
That's Germany's performance, summed up perfectly in four sentences. The Germans were better on the ball, they had a better game plan and they had individuals who surprised themselves by reaching new heights.
"I'm having a tough time to come to terms with this result," admitted the outstanding Müller.
"I said before the tournament that this team had quality and skills," insisted a happy Bayern Munich right back
Capello, a bad performance, lack of team spirit, a sense of entitlement and tactical incompetence: take your pick. For England to really move on and to make sure that their history of underachievement doesn't perpetuate itself endlessly, the hunt for the scapegoats, the search for the one, most important factor must be suspended, however.
More introspection and naval gazing is the last thing England needs, because the traditional belief that the solution to the problem lies within itself, only waiting to be discovered, is very much part of the problem. Instead, the English should do what Germany has done when it realized that its reputation was no longer in line with the actual talent at its disposal: look and learn.
At the turn of the century, a delegation of the German FA went to study the French academy system that was churning out world-class players and decided that similar structures had to be put into place. German clubs and the federation made a concerted effort to produce more talent, allocating hundreds of millions of Euros in the process. Ten years later, this policy has come to fruition.
"No German manager in recent history has had as many players to chose from," wrote
Tactically, Germany have also tried to emulate the best, namely Spain. In the light of the 2008 European championship final defeat against
England will have to change, everything really, because in the Darwinian world of modern football, simply staying true to your inherent strengths -- grit, application and pace -- is no longer enough. Germany, who used to pride themselves on very similar traits, have found that they needed to adapt dramatically to re-emerge as a true power on the world stage.
If England can, for once, draw the same lessons, annihilation at the hands of its fierce rivals might just be the best thing that's ever happened to it.