England: The Lehman Brothers of football
Germany 4 - England 1. Why were England so poor?
It all goes back to the basic truth of modern tournament football: the well-coached sides win things. Now everybody can defend you have to be able to defend, break, find space but above all - in a tournament - adapt to new conditions like a team. You have to be a learning organism.
This is what Capello tried to teach England: to play like a squad, adapt like a squad. But all that happened was that some of the players attempted a rebellion against his system. That is no surprise because it is exactly what happened with France as well. Italy too went home because they could not or would not play the system the manager wanted to play.
Having tried and failed to impose their own system on Capello, the players then lost morale, self-belief and skill.
In the case of England and France this dissent and player power reflects the huge problem of trying to make millionaire club stars play to a system they don't like. In the case of Italy, the "terror in the legs" phenomenon was probably the result of a similar issue. It's not a problem in club football because players get bought by managers with an exact idea of their skills and on-pitch role, so they rarely have to involuntarily adapt.
Maybe in this World Cup we've seen the first real triumph of the economics of modern football over skill and organisation: the triumph of a club-first, nation-last mentality and individualism over teamwork.
Capello did his best to kill the player power culture that was evident last time: the self-selecting team, the WAGs, etc. But it simply resurfaced in the form of failing motivation and failing skill. This in turn reflects England's weak domestic skills base that's resulted from the unrestricted use of foreign money and foreign players.
If you look at the teams that had very little talent but were well coached eventually they too fell apart against teams that had both: Ghana beat the USA for this reason, and for the same reason the next three games are a cert. Argentina, Holland and Brazil should go through. So Capello was not wrong to try to impart system and team discipline to England. Even if he chose the wrong system (4-4-2) we will never know, because England never won themselves the breathing space to try 4-4-1-1 in a competitive game.
The whole English FA now looks very exposed as a result of this poor showing. They failed miserably to keep control of Sven or the players in 2006. Their remedy was to appoint a disciplinarian who could at least control the players and who seemed to get the best out of them until they faced world class opposition.
But if you look at what's wrong with English football it starts with the junior game, where there's a horrendously physical and low-skill philosophy preached; then, for some reason, all the clever people get weeded out by the club system so that the words "intelligent, inventive England player" are impossible to write; finally the money pouring into the English premiership in the form of leveraged club buyouts allows club managers to buy their way out of having to train and develop English talent and we only find out once every four years what is wrong.
England's outstanding badness in World Cup 2010 must be a symptom of something bigger: the fact that we've got the most expensive, highest leveraged club system - and that none of our players play outside it - must have contributed to the weakening of commitment to the national colours, the evisceration of upcoming talent, the creation of an unmanageable team of frightened individuals, each of whom will now be dictating a valedictory ghost-written column to their chosen tabloid newspaper before getting on with life as a millionaire.
Like failed bankers they will pay no penalty for failure other than public opprobium and, as everybody in high finance knows, you can live with that as long as you own a Lamborghini.
Basically, we've just seen the Lehman Brothers of football and it was not pretty.