Thursday, July 15, 2010

What England can learn from Spain's World Cup triumph

As the final whistle blew and Spain were crowned world champions for the first time, the cacophony of fireworks and horns began and didn't end until late into the night. As an England fan living in Spain my feelings were mixed: happy that my host country were in ecstacy, delighted that the best and most classy team won and also more than a bit jealous. It might have been bearable if England had at least got close and suggested they were possible contenders next time.

But England fans had better resign themselves to the drought between world cups going on for a while yet - they fell well short this time when pitched against one of the big countries and at times looked pedestrian even compared to the relative minnows like Slovenia.

If you look at the background and style of Spain's success there are two important lessons for England to learn if they are ever to be serious challengers again:

- Spain had class throughout the team but it's undoubted strength was in the midfield where they were so strong that even Fabregas was only used as a substitute. But also look at the type of midfielder they had and what they did - good on the ball, passed along the ground, kept possession, protected the back four, linked play. England has star names in midfield but they are almost all attacking types more intent on rushing forward than doing either the protecting role that players like Alonso, Schweinsteiger and Mascherano did for their teams or the linking/passing role that Iniesta and Xavi did so well. England haven't had a central midfield "string-puller" since Gazza and without one they will always struggle. How to produce such players?

- It has long been recognised that English coaching of young talent overemphasises competitive action over technique and the FA have been trying to address it. But looking at the young Spanish squad it shows just how far they have to go. The world cup win was a triumph of the Spanish youth development particularly that of Barcelona which provided the nucleus of the squad (including Fabregas who came from the club's cantera or quarry as they call the youth set-up). It's hard to see English clubs replicating this success without a firm incentive to produce English talent. Man U and Arsenal invest in youth but scour the planet for the raw material. If every PL team had to field 4 English players then suddenly they would be desperate to bring English kids through specifically. Young players like Jack Wilshire (a possible future "string-puller") and Adam Johnson would get more opportunities when they do break through.

It's got to happen or England can forget about enjoying what Spain has just done for decades.

From the Advoco website - contracting in Spain

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