Next year’s European Championships in France will mark 50 years since the 1966 World Cup, England’s only victory at a major championship to date. Since that great triumph at Wembley, our great rivals Germany have gone on to win three World Cup’s, in 1974, 1990 and more recently 2014, and also lifted three European Championships, in 1972, 1980 and 1996.
After a disastrous 2004 European Championships Joachim Low took charge of the German national team in 2006 and his first aim was to install an identity to his side, something I am sure we all can agree that the England national side severely lacks. His identity was to pass the ball on the ground from front to back as quickly as possible, creating a dynamic attacking style of play which was also easy on the eye.
Since 2004 Germany have been mightily impressive in major tournaments, reaching the Final of Euro 2008, finishing third in the World cup of 2010, third again at Euro 2012 and, finally, winners of the World Cup in 2014. One of the main reasons why Germany have surpassed England’s own efforts over the last decade has been the amount of German players Low has to choose from.
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It was Low himself who quoted in 2014 that England would struggle to win the World Cup due to the high amount of foreign players playing in the Premier League, hampering the young English talent from breaking through into the top flight. In last season’s Premier League campaign only 35% of the players were English. Compare that to the German Bundesliga, where around 60% of the players are German, and Low definitely has a valid point.
With Low having a larger number of home grown players playing in the German top division, it is no wonder that he appears to have an almost constant conveyor belt of young talent at his disposal. Over the years, Low has integrated such world class players as,Marco Reus, Julian Draxler, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Matts Hummels, Manuel Neuer and Mario Gotze into his German side.
Low finds a way to blend up and coming talent with the experience and reliability of players like Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski, whilst still allowing Germany to compete for major honours and continue playing with identity.
In contrast, England have been less successful in major European competitions since 2004. They only reached the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup, didn’t qualify for Euro 2008, went out in the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup , reached the quarter finals of Euro 2012, but then failed to make it out of the group stages at the 2014 World Cup.
With England fans now accustomed to a lack of trophies and identity, will we ever challenge again? World class players have come and gone but England have still never been close to reaching the highs of ’66. We have the players coming through: the Barkley’s, Sterling’s and Stones’. So surely it’s time for a new approach? An proper identity? A real philosophy?
With the Premier League and FA big wigs monitoring the amount of foreign players involved in the English game and rumours circulating of number restrictions being added to Premier League teams, I have no doubt that putting a cap on foreign players in our top flight would allow young English players more space to progress through the ranks. But would the quality of football in the Premier League then diminish?
With the German Bundesliga not having number restrictions on foreign players but consisting of nearly a third more home grown players, I ask, are Premier League clubs not recognising talent? Are they not producing or nurturing the talent correctly? Or is the English model just simply not good enough and out of date?
This, I am sure, will be a debate that drags on for many years to come.