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Are England's World Cup chances stymied by EPL foreigners?
by Paul Gardner, April 15th, 2013 1:21AM

MOST READ
TAGS:  england, germany, italy, spain

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By Paul Gardner

The lament of Bobby Charlton -- Sir Bobby Charlton if you prefer that sort of thing -- is one that has been heard before. Charlton has assessed England’s chances of winning the World Cup any time soon, and has decided -- correctly, it seems to me -- that those chances are pretty slim.

“People wonder whether we will ever win it again. I worry about that as well. When I am asked to give my opinion, I always say yes -- but it is a fool’s errand.”

It is his reasons for this gloomy verdict that interest. Too many foreigners. Too many non-English players in the Premier League occupying places that should belong to English players.

“You need good players. But if all the spaces at English clubs are taken by foreign players, you have no chance.”

Yes, we have heard this argument before. Foreign players -- you can read that as foreign workers -- always present a problem. They are always likely to be seen as interlopers who are stealing jobs from the native-born locals, and that is never going to be widely accepted without plenty of grumbling.

Except that in soccer, probably more than in any other endeavor, it is pretty widely accepted. Because soccer has impeccable credentials as an international activity that knows no borders ... and because soccer, as a sport, lives and dies by results. The millions of fans throughout the world know those results, they see the way things are going, they know that the richest clubs are in Europe, and they know that the most successful of those teams thrive on foreign players.

Club teams, that is. But that is not where the dissatisfaction arises. Because the story is different for the national teams, which cannot -- well, only occasionally -- use foreign-born players. The old ideal of domestic league clubs with rosters full of native players no longer applies at the top level.

Charlton complains that England’s youngsters are denied slots on top teams. How can you build a strong national team from players who are not getting regular competitive games at the top level?

Maybe we should blame the Italians -- they started this business of importing foreigners, back in the 1930s. They brought in, from South America, top stars who could claim Italian origins, the oriundi, which meant they were the offspring of Italian immigrants. By the 1980s there were Czechs, Danes, Swedes, Germans, Spaniards and Yugoslavs, too. As the number and the variety of foreigners grew, the objections began. Italy had once been the top dog, the world’s leading soccer power, winner of consecutive World Cups in 1934 and 1938. Since then, some 40 years without the title. Something was wrong, and much criticism was directed at all the foreigners playing in Serie A. It was, precisely, Charlton’s complaint.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Italian Federation tinkered with a variety of measures to limit foreigners -- only two per team, or two plus one oriundo, or three, then only two foreigners on the field at any time. In 1964 came a complete ban on imported players. Which was followed, two years later, by Italy’s most embarrassing World Cup disaster, the first-round elimination after a 1-0 loss to North Korea.

One foreigner per club was permitted in 1980 -- and two years after that Italy did, at last, win its third World Cup. But there was no easily discernible cause-and-effect relationship between the presence of foreign players in Italy, and the strength of the azzurri.

Nowadays, all the top soccer clubs of Europe are awash with foreign players -- so many, in fact, in so many nations, that it is well nigh impossible to measure any possible negative impact on national teams.

A solid reminder of the extent to which the employment of foreign players has become the norm in Europe is provided by some recent statistics from the International Center for Sports Studies (CIES) -- and if that elaborate title isn’t enough to impress you, let me add that CIES also carries the accolade of being “FIFA-backed.”

The CIES stats deal with 31 countries and the overall finding is that over a third of the players with top clubs (36.1%) are foreigners. Looking only at the “big five” European countries, these are the figures for foreigners: England 55.1%, Italy 52.2%, Germany 46%, Spain 35.3%, and France 27.4%.

England and Italy then, with over half of the top players not eligible for their national teams. But the percentage is not much higher than Germany’s 46%, and the German national team has been doing pretty well lately. Come to that, Italy were the reigning world champions as recently as 2009.

It just is not possible to single out an excess of foreigners as a reason for poor national team play. Spain’s total of 35.3% is sizable, but has not prevented the country from currently dominating the international scene.

Another view of the same conundrum is given by the CIES figures for the percentage of homegrown players with each top club -- homegrown being defined as players who spent at least three seasons with the club between the ages of 15 and 21. But even by that liberal definition, the overall level of club-trained players for all 31 countries has now touched a record low of 21%.

If you’re thinking, or hoping, that the big five countries will come in well above that average, you’re way off. Spain does, with 25.6%. Then it’s France 21.1%, England 17.5%, Germany 15.4% and Italy, dead last in the whole of Europe, at 7.8%.

The surprise there, for me, is the low placing of Germany, which is often cited as the model for developing young players, and for sane spending on foreigners. England actually does slightly better in the stats -- but nowhere near as well on the field -- as Germany.

Contradictions abound. Charlton’s pessimism can be seen as one -- for while he bemoans the lack of opportunities for young English players, his club, Manchester United, has the best record in England for fielding club-trained players -- as high as 40%.

The trouble with these stats (there’s always a problem with stats, no?) is that they measure quantity, not quality. Charlton is probably correct in belittling England’s chance of World Cup success, just as he is correct in criticizing the lack of young English players in the Premier League.

But there’s little evidence to support his view that it’s the foreigners who are the problem. More likely, much more likely, it is the quality of the English players, these young products of the Premier League’s expensive academies, that is at fault. By that reckoning the problem is not foreign players. It is English coaching.



34 comments
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 2:38 a.m.
    Gee, it sure as tootin' sounds much like the woes and tribulations of what ails the progress or lack thereof of the US's national teams, doesn't it?

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 8:24 a.m.
    Charlton is not correct. It is not the number of English players playing in the EPL that is the problem. The problem is the number of players England is exporting to other leagues.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 8:29 a.m.
    Bill, my thoughts exactly. Every league has foreigners. England's problem is their provincial attitude toward the rest of the world. Players grow by getting out of there comfort zone, and overcoming new challenges. I can't remember the last time an Englishmen went to big club in a non-English speaking country.

  1. lorenzo murillo
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 9:49 a.m.
    The question that needs to be asked, is maybe at the academy (youth) level, the training philosophy has to change to produce players that can earn a spot in a premier league team. Also, Bill hit it on the money, England does not export players. Spain was similar decades ago, yet now you see many Spaniards playing in other leagues, and Spain is successful. Having read many soccer books from Spain, they did a complete rehaul of their training methods, hence the results.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.
    While Spain is exporting players, their national team is composed of almost exclusively those who play in La Liga. Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol, Villa, Ramos, Pedro, Pique, et al I don't believe ever played outside of Spain (i.e. their comfort zone) and Spain has done okay lately. I suspect those who leave Spain do it mostly because not everyone can play for Real or Barca, and you have no chance of winning anything in Spain if you don't play for the big two. Italy won in 2006 without a single player playing outside Italy. Brazil played their best soccer when they weren't exporting any players (i.e. 1958 and 1970). So, where is the evidence that exporting players is an indication of anything other than salary levels?

  1. Juan Torres
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 11:01 a.m.
    I love you Paul G., you always hammering the nail on the head

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.
    Right on again Paul This quote says it all "these young products of the Premier League’s expensive academies, that is at fault. By that reckoning the problem is not foreign players. It is English coaching." Hey US fans, sound familiar?

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 11:36 a.m.
    David Mozeshtam is exactly right. Spain's starting 11 for the Euro 2012 final against Italy consisted of 6 Barcelona players, 4 Real Madrid players, and 1 player from Man City (Silva). On 59 minutes Silva was subbed out and then we truly saw the Spanish "national team": 7 players from Barcelona playing at midfield and forward and 4 from Real Madrid playing in defense and goal. England and every other country in the world will continue to lose against Spain in international competition until they start doing what the Spanish do: dividing up the TV revenues so that all of the money goes to just two clubs, letting those two clubs acquire all the good players so they can train, play and practice together all year long, and then picking the national team starting 11 from just those two clubs. It helps if you also make sure one club supplies the defense and the other supplies midfield/attack -- that way there's less challenge getting the overall national team working as a unit. I just hope England don't go to this model, because it would make the EPL just as boring as La Liga.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.
    I think it's difficult for English youths to want to go overseas when arguably the best league is right there in their home country. But for players who aspire to play at that level, training and playing somewhere else seems like a smart strategy. Lewis Holtby and Eric Dier are English kids trained in Germany and Portugal and have a good shot of staying/playing in the premier league. Maybe it's impression, but training in a more technical league might give English kids the skills they need to go back home later. But that's a different issue than the one we have here with MLS.

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 11:47 a.m.
    It may sound familiar Walt, but that doesn't mean it's right. The USMNT's problem is that most of our players are on different clubs and only train, play and practice together a few weeks a year. Compare this to the Spanish national team, where 7 of the players who participated in the 2012 Euro final play and practice together all year long at the same club. Coaching, academy systems, etc. have little to do with it.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 11:58 a.m.
    Coaching and academy systems have little to do with it? Then why are we going backwards in our development of players while the rest of CONCACAF seems to be moving forward? Something changed here in the past 20 years.

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 12:51 p.m.
    European clubs trying to win, win, win more than their neighbors, consequently bringing the big bucks and status, at the end of the day, they are giving a big shot on their own national team foot not allowing their own English talent develop and play for Manchester United, Manchester City...top teams and truly excel at the highest level. It would be great seeing only English playing the EPL, only Spanish players playing La Liga, only German players playing in Germany...Sorry my English friends, 1966 had almost 80% of English referees only and like Argentina 78, France 98...results were arranged!!! No wonder what you see now is Europeans 10 x South American 9...FIFA wants to keep it as even as possible as the billions continue to grow!!! Brazil/Italy/Germany/Argentina winning all the time is not good for the billion of euros business each year!

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 12:52 p.m.
    How do you figure the rest of CONCACAF is moving forward and we're going backward? Mexico made it to the World Cup quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986 but haven't been able to get past the round of 16 for the last 20 years. The USMNT hadn't even qualified for the WC for 40 years until it finally reached the group stages in 1990; since that time the US has qualified for every WC and frequently makes it out of the group stages to the round of 16 (1994, 2010) or even the quarterfinals (2006). So basically in the last 20 years the US has gone from being a nobody to a consistent presence at the WC while Mexico has gone from a powerhouse to a whipping boy for opponents in the round of 16. What's the argument, we should overhaul the US system just because Costa Rica and Honduras make it to the group stages occasionally?

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 12:58 p.m.
    Luis, all 23 members of the English national squad at Euro 2012 played in the EPL. Manchester United and Manchester City each contributed 3 players to England's starting 11 in the Euro 2012 quarterfinal loss to Italy. So England give English players plenty of opportunity to play on the top clubs. The problem is that the top English players are spread across so many different EPL clubs and therefore only play and practice together a few weeks a year. Compare this to Spain, where 7 players in the Euro 2012 final play and practice together on the same team all year long.

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 1:09 p.m.
    David, don't forget the Barca's #10 or best strikers were Brazilians, now Argentine, assisted more than 35 times by the Brazilian fullback and Real's top players are Portuguese, Argentines and Brazilians...Spain became European champions twice and WC Champions, never played against Brazil yet and lost by 0 x 4 to Argentina. You are right when you mentioned Brazil's best were when most of the Brazilians were playing in Brazil. Chemistry is everything in a team, and back then two or three teams would have made the Brazil's national. Pele became the king playing in BRAZIL only then left to travel the world and win everything a club or a national team can offer. Today Brazil's national have basically 22 players invited to play from 15 different countries, playing for European countries, European coaches, living a totally different way of life and playing the game! Get together on Sunday, do basically nothing on Monday, 'shitty' practice on Tuesday, Wednesday gotta step in and prove themselves against teams playing together for years. Brazilians export more than 8,000 players each year at all levels and shapes. Spanish players are playing other leagues to survive. Who is buying and paying millions of euros for Spanish players to go play in England, France, Italy...How many Germans are really playing outside German? How many Italians are really playing outside Italy?

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 1:17 p.m.
    Well, it's not Spain's fault that Brazil can't make it past the quarterfinals in the WC, is it? And what is the significance of Spain losing a meaningless away friendly to Argentina 1-4 (not 0-4)?

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 1:18 p.m.
    Millwal, That's my point! People want to see the Brazilians shinning each game when we are travelling into totally different time zones and having to perform at the highest level...we are lucky we are Brazilians still! Even with the not so proper way to prepare to a match, we still can hang! Each game for us, a different team! Each game for us an ordeal to get them together! The big clubs in Europe paying even more money for them, and they rely even more on them to win, don't want to let the player play for their national team, players are rich already because of their European team's effort, the money they get from the national team is pocket changes! The only thing good about the national team is the WC! In between them, club soccer guide and play a huge factor in their mind! Players are rich and famous because of their club teams now more than ever!

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 1:24 p.m.
    Gentlemen, don't get misplaced with exporting players, and players being exported trying to survive on the business or even club bringing players over to sell more of their club at the country that particular player came from...Beckham went to PSG because PSG needed an English player? That American defender went to AC Milan because AC Milan needed an American defender? The Chinese player went to EC Corinthians because Corinthians needed a Chinese player to make their 99.99% Brazilian roster stronger?

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.
    David, did I write anything that made you believe that what we are going through right now has anything to do with Spain whatsoever? We careless about Spain...In fact, since you mentioned they careless for the 1 x 4 lost to ARGENTINA, what about that 2009 Confederations' Cup semi against USA of all teams? They knew they would be playing Brazil next! What about the Olympics? How far did they go? Don't let the FIFA stands fool you!

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.
    Luis, I think you're right about Brazil. In the past the Brazilian squad was mainly made up players from the Brazilian league; now almost everyone on the squad is playing in Europe. The 2002 WC winning squad had 13 players who played for Brazilian clubs; the 2006 and 2010 Brazil WC squads only had 3! No wonder Brazil have started to struggle to play as a true "team". They no longer have a consistent style or approach to the game; instead every player is learning a different style and system at a different European club.

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 2:03 p.m.
    Another thing I forgot...Exporting players are great for the business. The biggest problem is importing too many foreigners and not letting your own players, a good chunk of them, be part of the big party enabling them to excel and hang with the big boys. Spain for years are bringing the best players over, doing their homework in the youth and spreading their top players within their own league. That's why the players playing for Barcelona and Real are benefiting from it and shows at the national team. How long have you been reading the same names games after games in the Spanish national roster? With all that said and we know the facts, they played Argentina and lost by 1 x 4 and never really played Brazil since! Hopefully, they will not hide anymore, and they will finally meet the kings this upcoming June...Don't let the press fool, you David!!! Barcelona youth academy teams in Spain are full of foreigners, and the Brazilian teams and clubs go there and bring the trophies back home. Did you see the boy who made the difference on Barcelona's last game? He is Brazilian, not Spanish!!! Messi is Argentine!!! His #1 assistant is also Brazilian! Take Messi's 92 goals out and Daniel's 35 assists and you will see what you have left on Barca. Take CR7, Marcelo's and the Argentinians out of Real, and you will see what the Spanish boys would deliver themselves on their own...Brazilians are the #1 scoring players during the entire Champions' League so far. Wipe them out of Champions League teams, and you will be left...The Brazilian National team is the #1 winner in all levels, and like our captain said the other day, "respect the kings", you don't need to like us! But you must respect us and what we have done and accomplish...Europeans are fooling the world with this more collective type of game because they can't produce the killer like Brazil and Argentina produce by the thousands. Bringing more numbers of South Americans to Europe, they will definitely be washed by the way they all learned how to play in Brazil in exchange of the millions of euros playing for the European teams...consequently, benching Kaka, Marcelo and washing their brain's out, that's one tool to hit the Brazilian soccer ballers and their souls! Play like Europeans do, I will provide food and money to your families' next four generations to come! Come over! Spain x Holland, 2010 final one of the most boring game FIFA ever produced in its final! I hope 2014 will be better one!!!

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 2:18 p.m.
    The clubs were supposed to be Spanish clubs with Spanish players only - the press say Spanish League is the most difficult one? For the last 27 years, only three times the champion was not Barcelona or Real. How can this be the most difficult one? Both teams full of foreigners, non-European, and even the Brazilian-African players were proved to be European-born ten generations ago??? English clubs with English players only, France club with French players only, their born player are even losing room at their own youth...Brazilian clubs, 99.9% of the clubs have Brazilians only in there roster. Brazilians are leaving Brazil at the age of 10-15 dreaming to hit big in Europe, Asia, Mid-East (Qatar is already scouting players and staff planning to do better than South Africa did) National teams today have foreigners! You have Brazilians on Spain rosters in all sports! Futsal World Championship they had 3 (Spanish-Brazilians) starters playing the final against Brazil!!! All European top clubs have Brazilians making a difference for their teams, and in few months they become European-born?! It is a big mess, all about the money, status and basically each player trying to make their millions using the totally manipulated system to their own benefit! The big companies and rich people washing dirty money and the players making big bucks but definitely being brain washed big time and we are here making no money and getting mad at each other's thoughts for free!!!

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.
    Walt, when other Concacaf clubs and countries still do soccer as they should,focus on the youth, develop their youth properly, American soccer became who can pay more and who you know. Win 'sorry' tournaments within and believe they are on the right track. Spend millions confining players for a few months, and can't even qualify to the world best out of Concacaf region...Until the US don't fix their youth from 0 to 14, you will be seeing what you have been seeing and you are not happy with! Come over to California and I will take you around for a ride and show you some of the nonsense that happen around here. Beautiful webpages, beautiful facilities, but the coaching and player lack of proper training and true focus on what they should be doing during crucial stages of their coaching and player years...waste of our time be talking in here!!!

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 3:27 p.m.
    I'm with you on this one Luis. Until recently (past 3-4 years)our youth teams U23 and down, routinely qualified out of CONCACAF. Our challenge was only Mexico and an occasional hot team.What has changed? Why is it now such a struggle? I believe the change has been the advent of the super clubs, Academy programs and the paid "professional" trainers with great accents. I agree that the rest of CONCACAF have been improving, but shouldn't we have been able to keep pace. Especially now after 20 years or so of the professional approach? Mr. Millwill America, if we are not qualifying at the youth levels, what makes you think that in the future we'll continue to qualify at the adult level.It's no surprise to me that Klinsi has to seek players that have been developed outside of the USA. Our system is broke, we all agree. How do we fix it?

  1. Luciano Castro
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 4:13 p.m.
    For England to win another WC two things must happen: 1) An Englishman must become FIFA president, 2) That WC would have to be held in England. With these two ingredients, the Brits will be able to collude with the organizing committe and referees just like Stanley Rous did in 1966, when the Brits "stole" the cup. As it is right now the english players do not have what it takes to compete outside Englad. No major title (Eurocup or WC) since 1966 speak for it self. I rest my case.

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
    Walt, we'll continue to qualify at the adult level for the same reason we always have -- because national team performance at the adult level doesn't have a strong linkage to performance at the youth level. The US U-17's best performance at the U-17 World Cup was a 4th place finish way back *in 1999*. The US U-20 team's best performance in the U-20 World Cup was a 4th place finish even further back *in 1989*. We've never managed to reach those heights again at the youth level! But our lousy performance at the youth level hasn't stopped the USMNT from reaching the group stages of every World Cup since 1990 or from making it to the round of 16 as recently as 2010 or from making it to the quarter finals as recently as 2006. Look, the last four winners of the U-17 World Cup were: Mexico, Switzerland, Nigeria, and Mexico again. I don't think I'm going to hold my breath waiting for those powerhouse Swiss or Nigerian teams to win the 2018 WC in Russia as adults! And I'm sure Mexico will continue to get knocked out at the round of 16 just like they've done at every WC since 1986. Look, performance at the youth level and at the adult level are basically uncorrelated, much as some people hate to hear it.

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.
    How do you fix it? Kick all English soccer coaches back to England!!! What did they have won in soccer besides 1966 made up? They are all over the places in America...even worst bringing the non coaches out of English colleges to babysit the Americans during summer. One English brought the other, and they are all over the places and Americans love their accents! They can't even show one move themselves, American white people growing up with money to pay for their camps can't dribble themselves...due to the English culture of teaching and playing the game. Two, players need to play streetsoccer and futsal before they even think about or hear about step on a soccer field. 0 to 13, streetsoccer, futsal excelling skills and awareness! Forget about win or lose! Build skills and awareness are the only two trophies! Three, no one can coach any team without a PE degree, prior playing experience for a minimum of 5 years! Four, the best club players will get paid and/or financial help from the professional club teams only. Five, you are not playing the professional league, you can't build a club team. Six, silly tournaments like pay and you play, all closed! Seven, parents who has no degree, no prior experience in soccer are not allowed even to cheer for the kids, otherwise will be sent to jail. Seven, soccer channel and lots of games free on TV and stadium for kids from 0 to 14...Eight, elementary and HS soccer coaches must have the PE and former player credential in order to coach any soccer team. Nine, players must have passion to play the game themselves and not playing only to socialize, parents are forcing and all free time soccer related...last but not least, culture change, how can a boy living in a two floor house, going to practice in Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche, Infinity...can play and use soccer to make it even bigger than Daddy and Mom if MLS starting players are homeless themselves?

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
    US qualify to WCs in all levels, sometimes not even the case because you are a Concacaf member. If you were from another region in the map, you would be lucky to qualify once every ten years!!!

  1. Luis Oliveira
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 5:39 p.m.
    Millwall, you are a wise man!

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 6:10 p.m.
    Luis, agreed -- if the US had to qualify from CONMEBOL or from Africa or Europe, we'd be lucky to qualify once every 12 years. So how do we improve the USMNT? No idea. Three possibilities: (1) Encourage/pay for more young American players to try out for the youth teams of big European clubs. (2) Lift the salary cap on one or two MLS teams (say LA Galaxy or NYRB) and get them to hire all the USMNT players. That way those players can practice and play together all year long rather than just a few weeks a year. I call this "the Spanish model". (3) Otherwise, my best guess is that the USMNT focus on playing simple tactics that can be learned and executed efficiently as a team with only a few weeks' practice (since a few weeks is all the time the USMNT has). Unfortunately I think that means a lot of route 1, long-ball, physical soccer which I'm sure Paul Gardner would really hate!

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 9:13 p.m.
    Luis, the first time I saw Brazil play (on TV) was during their tour of Europe in 1973. Since then, I've seen many games by the Brazil national team, and not once have I really been impressed by them. They've ranged from ok with occasional flashes of brilliance like in '82 and '86 to truly horrible like in '74. Over the years, I've been much more impressed by different European teams, like West Germany in '72 or Holland in '74 or even Denmark in the mid 80s.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: April 15, 2013 at 10:55 p.m.
    One thing I think is clear; there is no sure route to success in international soccer. Spain offers one model, Germany another, Brazil and Argentina a third, and they all do pretty well. I think success is a combination of natural talent, inspiration, soccer culture, a good selection process, good training (and sometimes an absence of organized training!?) at the right time, and good experiences for individuals in environments that help them grow (with some doing better in environments that are comfortable for them, others excelling when they're challenged), and finally, good team chemistry. My formula for success for the US? Get as many people as possible to love the game (to build a soccer culture), get as many people playing as much as possible (in every community, from the barrios to the African American urban neighborhoods to wealthy white suburbs, but get this communities to interact as much as possible in cooperative ways), focus on small-sided games (especially futsal), with a mix of challenging competitive games and no-pressure pick-up games. And to compete at the professional level, we have to have professional clubs in every community developing players who will benefit their bottom line (so they'll devote sufficient resources), to reduce to current barriers of cost and travel time. Nothing to it....but of course, even the longest journey starts with a single step...

  1. Brian Williams
    commented on: April 17, 2013 at 2:58 p.m.
    The stereotype of England's problem is at the youth level. The English "control-freak-coach." It used to be...I assume it has not changed... in Italy, France, Germany and Spain 12 yr olds play with limited substitution AND coaching is BANNED during games. In England they have limits on subs but coaching is NOT banned. There are English coaches who and scream and tell 12 yr old to look at them and not the soccer ball. The best teacher is the game itself. In England too much EMPHASIS on coach and not enough on player. Of course in the good old U.S.A. we have the worst of both worlds... no limits on subs and coaches who yell and scream like a bunch of lunatics. We need to limit subs on youth soccer and banned coaching during games!

  1. Rick Figueiredo
    commented on: April 19, 2013 at 10:51 a.m.
    When you watch a Premier League game, it is quite clear that the better players on the team are from outside England. I do however like Rooney. England might only be capable of winning another World Cup if it is played in England. They have lesser talented players. They think as a nation of coaches that they are elite. The Premier League hardly believes in shooting the ball at goal. Wayne Gretsky once said "100% of the shots you do not take cannot go in." THAT IS THE ENGLISH MAN'S FIRST PROBLEM. They do not like to shoot balls at goal unless they think the chances are excellent. So consequently they end up turning the ball over without shots. Why do you think great goal scorers come from south america? Because as they grow up they shoot from everywhere. They come to europe and end up being forwards. Then the english or premier coaches tell them not to shoot from so far away if their odds are "poor." Makes for a nice midfield and build up game but also makes for poor shooters. Shooting is an art that needs refining. TAKE OUT THE FOREIGNERS and you once again have a lesser quality league. Still an exciting one but not as skilled.


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Germany on top of the world as Brazil searches for a way back    
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Superlatives are definitely called for to describe Germany's blitzing of Brazil. No ...
Dutch and Argentines well-balanced; For Germany, the Brazilian cauldron awaits    
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Down to the final four, and things seem to have arranged themselves ...
Thank you, Jurgen. And good bye. Time to Move on from the Sterile Klinsmann Interlude.    
Buried under the tumult and clamor of the USA's performance against Belgium -- most of it ...
Can this be Brazil? The hosts stagger through to the quarterfinals     
So Brazil is through to the quarterfinals. Of course that’s good news, not only for Brazilians, ...
Teenage wonder kids and ruling dynasties: They don't come around too often     
Ever since the 17-year-old Pele was the star of the 1958 World Cup we've been waiting ...
Goals early and often light up World Cup    
Those (myself among them) who feared that caution, with its depressant effect on goalscoring, would rule ...
Brazil 3 Croatia 1. No Beautiful Game from this Brazil team     
Not, by any means, an uneventful game. Not short of action, suspense, tension. So plenty to ...
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