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The Coaches Notepad

A Good point for England | Int Football Lacks Outstanding Teams

by TheFootballCoach 20 Jun 2021 0 Comments

Unfair Criticism of England

Over the last few days, the criticism of England in their performance against Scotland has been everywhere. From ex-players to celebrities and the public, the team have exposed for what is seemingly a shocking result... However in reality is the criticism over the top and is there a different way to look at the result for England. 

To start with, it is important to recognise that Scotland was outstanding within the game, their intensity with and without the ball made life difficult for England. The lack of space between lines and Englands failure to move between the lines made the game very static. 

However, with this in mind, we must recognise that success for both sides is very different, as Scott Brown said before the game "Beat England and you become legends". For the England players this isn't the case, to become a 'Legend' you have to win the competition, nothing else will do.

This means that going into the game on Friday, Gareth Southgate would have had a much different approach to the game, a mature and calm manager like Gareth Southgate would have constantly been looking at the bigger picture. The bigger picture was very clear, a point gives England qualification in the bank. Although three points would have been his objective, it was just another stepping stone in a journey that has two outcomes success or failure.

This is no disrespect to Scotland, coming into the tournament they would have two aims, the first to beat England and the second to try and get out of the group. This is a sensible and realistic aim for a country that hasn't qualified for a major competition for over twenty years and have a population of just five million. 

In a month if England finds themselves at Wembley still competing for the right to win Euro2020, the Scotland outcome will be long gone in the mind of England fans. As previously mentioned, the outcome puts England in a fantastic position, Played two, four points, no goals against. In the bigger picture is England have played eight, won seven and conceded just one goal without losing a game. 

Team Selection 

The other factors that have become much discussed are team selection, who has been selected, why have they been selected and why hasn't player X Y and Z been put in the team. 

      As most members of this site will know, being a coach to a group of players makes you privy to information that isn't public, players emotions, players training levels and behaviour in training, as well as a million other factors. 

     When the coach in a competition such as Euro2020 puts together a starting XI they are naturally trying to win the game, but the factors around them are much greater than usual. The team selection is like a giant puzzle, you aren't just selecting a team to win today, but trying to puzzle together a team that can go again and win three days later. 

     The opponent, the last opponent and the next opponent will all play factors in the team selection, who played large minutes in the last game, how have they recovered and what could they offer in the next game. Who hasn't played so far, will they play a key role, are they match fit? When could they get game time?


All of these questions must be considered by a coach as they put each piece together. With England, the rotation of the full-backs will likely be this situation, if the same full-backs play all three games in the group stages and they do outstandingly well and England qualify with nine points, but then the full-backs aren't fresh enough to influence the game in the later stages? Would this be classed as poor management?

The tournament situation will also be key when selecting the team for Gareth Southgate, a point was a must for England against Scotland, it would put them in a position where they could take risks in the final game and become more expressive, so by playing two more defensive midfield players in this game, the chance to play with one in the final game might come around. 

As we bring our Team Selection points to a conclusion here, we can see and understand the task complexity that exists when a coach puts together a team to compete in any game, we haven't even mentioned that players might be unwell, injured, unhappy, tired or not training well! 

Unrealistic Expectations 

Let's be clear wanting to win is not an unrealistic expectation, expecting to win is, to win an elite international competition you must peak at the right time. As we've seen before, winning an international competition is not always a linear route. For Spain in 2010 they saw defeat in their opening game, for France in the last world cup, they started chaotically before peaking as they left the group. For Italy in 2006, it was a surprising draw against the USA that persuaded the media that they weren't ready for success on the biggest stage, just two weeks before they won the world cup.

It seems like a side never really dominate from start to finish in international competitions. Even in 2014 when the German's were outstanding in Brazil, destroying the hosts 7-1, their path to that point was much more complicated with a draw to Ghana and then needing extra time to beat Algeria. So surely history tells us that within international football, there are rarely 'Outstanding' teams and the lesser nations are often able to make up for their difference in ability in national pride and tactical determination.

With all of this in mind surely we can recognise that England's result and performance against Scotland is not a surprise, neither is it a shock. International football lacks outstanding teams, and consistency in international competitions doesn't exist. It's all about getting out of the group and finding form, and if you can do that, all that has happened before is irrelevant.  

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