Rugby, cricket, but not football

This is no fluke. England has the best five-day cricket playing team. And the style by which this has been achieved, an innings and 242 run spanking of India, is distinctly un-English, for those who bleated for Tim Henman at Wimbledon or who persist in dreaming that “passion” will win the football team a World Cup.

Let’s be clear how much better England were than India: add another (third) Indian innings and they probably wouldn’t have equalled England’s first innings. Take away Alastair Cook’s 294 runs and his team would have needed 53 runs to win, which is how many Tim Bresnan, the bowler who comes in at No 8 to bat, scored. And India couldn’t get Bresnan out.

I warned that this England cricket squad is as good or nearly as good as the very best in the modern era.

It isn’t a fluke. The foundations for the achievement of becoming test cricket’s number one rated side go back beyond 2005, when England first mugged the then supreme team Australia in an Ashes series which was celebrated like winning a football world cup. There were some slip ups, but since the appointment of the South-African-born Andrew Strauss, this climb up the rankings (England was listed as the worst test playing team at one point) has been the result of the right attitude, preparation and keeping the “passion” to celebrating actual achievements, unlike soccer.

Now cricket joins rugby union as a sport in which the England team have, within the past decade, achieved global superiority. Football, a sport with vastly more money, more spectators and a depth of players, has, by contrast been an utter failure.

Here is England’s World Cup and European Championship record since 1966:

England (World Cup 4th [1990], European Championships 3rd [1968, 1996])

And here are some comparable achievements by countries not rated highly by English soccer fans, commentators or players:
Belgium (World Cup 4th [1986], European Championship 2nd [1980], 3rd [1972])
Bulgaria (World Cup 4th [1994])
Croatia (World Cup 3rd [1998])
Czech Republic (European championship 2nd [1996], 3rd [2004])
Czechoslovakia (European championship 1st [1976], 3rd [1980])
Denmark (European championship 1st [1992], 3rd [1984])
Greece (European championship 1st [2004])
Hungary (European championship 4th [1972])
Poland (World Cup 3rd [1974, 1982])
Russia (European championship 3rd [2008])
Sweden (World Cup 3rd [1994], European championship 4th [1992])
Turkey (World Cup 3rd [2002], European championship 4th [2008])
USSR (European championship 2nd [1972, 1988], 4th [1968])
Yugoslavia (European championship 2nd [1968], 4th [1976])

The teams with better records than England since 1966 also includes Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal, all of which have at least reached a final.

The first problem for English football is the difficulty in accepting what reasonable expectations to begin with and to work (as opposed to emote) to improve this. It’s hard to accept that Belgium is a more successful footballing country at World and European championships. But investigating why and how to improve on this is the way forward.

It’s a good idea for team spirit if all the players sing the National Anthem with feeling before a game. But it’s not a sufficient skill for winning.

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3 Responses to “Rugby, cricket, but not football”

  1. Patrick Crozier Says:

    I think I am right in saying that Germany has outperformed England in every World Cup since 1966 and every European Championship with the exception of 2000 and 2004.

  2. Patrick Crozier Says:

    But here’s the rub. Remember the 4-1 drubbing at the last World Cup? How many of the German team would (on playing record) have got into the England side? Because I think the answer is very close to zero.

  3. Antoine Clarke Says:

    1) Actually, everyone forgets the 1968 European Championships: England came third, Germany didn’t qualify. Otherwise, Patrick is correct.

    2) The 4-1: the German manager was paid ONE THIRD of the wages his England counterpart received. Expectations in Germany were quite modest: last 8 was considered a fair target. England’s expectations were outsized.

    Ambition is fine, a delusional belief that just turning up and screaming “BELIEVE” is a substitute for preparation, skills and tactics is not.

    My view is that the approach taken by the ECB in most of the past 10 years and of the RFU from about 1997-2003 would, if applied by the FA, have produced a lot better results than the shambles we’ve seen.

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