I watched parts of England v Andorra, and most of Italy v Scotland this week. Two very bad games, which triggered a wave of the usual self-whipping articles in British media. "Why are we so crap" , "McClaren out", etc.
One of these was an unusually cheap article at GU Sports Blog (link here) which was just worth it for a spot-on comment from a guy called Chariostsofnandralone.
That's the ultimate beauty of blogging - comments that are often better argued, more entertaining reading than the posts themselves.
So I paste down here the guy`s comment. Enjoy.
The reason England can't play slow, measured, possession International football is the same reason Manchester United haven't been able to play the slow, measured, possession Champions League football SAFergie has wanted to since 1999. English football doesn't produce skilful enough players and the Premiership doesn't allow teams to play proper, skillful football.
It's no good kidding ourselves that Lampard, Neville (take your pick), Terry, Lennon, Owen, SWP, Johnson, even the oft-lauded Scholes and the rest have anything like the same individual ball control and passing skill as their Italian, Brazilian, French, Argentinian, Spanish and even Ghanaian or Mexican counterparts.
Without instantly controlling the ball, being comfortable in possession, keeping possession when in tight with the opposition, passing the ball between teammates without losing control English players lose that extra yard and split-second needed to outplay any decent opposition. When you lose posession carelessly in the Premiership you usually get the ball back a few seconds later.
Why do Chelsea and Arsenal and Liverpool buy so many non-English and non-Scottish players. It's not just because they're cheap.
Ray Wilkins has said when he trained with ACMilan back in the day, the game of passing the ball amongst a circle of players would go on forever until himself or Mark Hately in the middle kicked one of the Italian players. In England the ball is frequently mis-controlled or mis-hit and the player in the middle makes the interception.
Never was the gulf more evident than watching Italy-Scotland tonight (Scottish players suffer from exactly the same pell-mell style physical domestic football).
The gulf in individual skill level between the two teams was embarrasing. Every single Italian player looked like a top-class footballer, athletic, fit, comfortable in possession, balanced, two-footed.
For Scotland, apart from possibly Barry Ferguson, every player was a gawky, uncoordinated, clumsy and sometimes slow amateur in comparison who treated the football like some kind of slippery Mexican jumping bean to be chased with all their might but always just out of control. It looked like footballers in Scotland don't practice their ball skills in training but are introduced to an alien spherical object just before kick-off with the same effect as serving raw meat to starving lions in the Colliseum.
Brown, Miller - much perspiration but little skill - and the rest were all shown up by a brilliant 25 minute cameo from Del Piero, a proper footballer, just like the rest of the Italians.
As long as Premiership Academies keep emphasising the physical over the skillful throughout the age groups, there is no hope for England or Scotland.