Speaking at a press conference ahead of tomorrow’s friendly with Hungary at Wembley, England coach Fabio Capello attempted to explain his team’s abject performance in South Africa by blaming tiredness as the main reason for their second round exit to Germany.
“South Africa wasn’t good but we did not play at the same level that we played in qualification. When you play a World Cup competition, you have to arrive in really good physical condition.”
Capello’s claims that the England players didn’t arrive into the tournament “in really good physical condition” is due to a belief that the pace and intensity of the Premier League took its toll on the England players and left them too fatigued to perform to their potential. However, on closer inspection, this proves not to be the case as players such as Cesc Fabregas, Dirk Kuyt and Carlos Tevez all featured regularly for their clubs and performed excellently for their respective countries during the World Cup.
Despite missing the last six games of the season due to injury, Fabregas featured 36 times for the Gunners in all competitions last season and managed to be a huge impact substitute for Spain in South Africa, coming off the bench in the final to set up Andres Iniesta to score the decisive goal against Holland. Similarly, Dirk Kuyt has become a mainstay in the Liverpool side since signing for Feyenoord in 2006 and played an astonishing 53 times last season, along with starting all seven games and scoring one goal for the Dutch in their run to the final.
Like Kuyt and Fabregas, Tevez played regularly for his club yet found tiredness no obstacle to his performances in South Africa. Tevez played outstandingly in Argentina’s World Cup campaign, scoring twice against Mexico in the last-16 and displaying all of the pace, tenacity and power in his exploits with the national team that we have become accustomed to during his time in the Premier League.
Capello’s argument is further undermined when you look at the squad of the eventual World Cup winners Spain whose team is made up of players who have played a similar number if not more games than England’s flops.
In order to improve the future fitness of his England players, Capello has pointed to the possibility of a winter break being introduced to the Premier League but admitted that implementing such a plan would prove difficult. Capello said later on in the press conference:
“It is impossible to find a break in winter, but we have to change something before the next tournament. If the players are physically fit in Poland and Ukraine it won’t be so hard. Just a rest would help.”
Capello points to the example of the Bundesliga’s winter break as the reason why Germany “are always in good condition at World Cups” but the German league’s winter break means that while the teams do get a month off during December, it still means that the players will be playing the same number of games, albeit to a more condensed schedule. This means that if anything, the players playing in the German league will be more tired than their English counterparts.
The use of tiredness as an excuse for England’s World Cup failure is Capello’s attempt to paper over the more serious cracks that have afflicted England in both the in the run-up and in the tournament itself. Let’s hope Capello’s new look squad can inject some much needed vigour into England’s lethargic play.