Tag England

Tag England

Could England import a team?

July 5, 2010 Tags: , International 4 comments

The English cricket team has imported South African-born Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kiesweter and Jonathan Trott, as well as Irishman Eoin Morgan. Meanwhile, Rugby Union has capped Kiwis Shontayne Hape, Lesley Vainokolo and Riki Flutey. Could the answer to English football’s problems lie in the globalised Premier League?

After all even tennis (Greg Rusedski), boxing (Lennox Lewis) and athletics (Zola Budd) have imported talent over the years, with football’s globalisation more distinct that any other sport. In the spirit of question, Rant looks at a squad of overseas-born players who qualify, or will shortly, to play for Fabio Capello’s side.

Under FIFA statutes, players qualify to switch nationalities and therefore play for England if they meet one of the following criteria and have not competed at full ‘A’ international for another country:

(a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association (i.e England);
(b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(d) He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association.

Mikel Arteta
Everton. Midfield. Born in Spain. Qualified under residency – the silky midfielder is already eligible for a British passport, meets FIFA’s residency criteria and has not yet played for Spain. With England’s dearth of creativity from the middle of the park, Arteta would add a new dimension to Capello’s squad.

Sylvain Distin
Everton. Defence. Born in France. Qualified under residency – the 32-year-old defender may be in the twighlight of a solid career but few who have watched the left-footed Bagnolet-born player believed he would be worse in the England side than Matthew Upson. Qualifies under residency having not appeared for France’s senior side.

Steed Malbranque
Sunderland. Midfield. Born in Belgium. Qualified under residency – the Belgian-born Frenchman has not represented his homeland at any level. Now 31, the technically gifted Malbranque would hardly represent a long-term strategy but did feature in the full France squad in 2004 without making the team.

Charles N’Zogbia
Wigan Athletic. Midfield. Born in France. Qualified under residency – the former Newcastle United winger does, despite reports to the contrary, still qualify for England under residency if he takes up a British passport. The French-born midfielder also qualifies for Congo under parentage rules but has only represented France at Under-21 level to date. Has expressed a wish to represent England.

Manuel Almunia
Arsenal. Goalkeeper. Born in Spain. Qualified under residency – the Arsenal goalkeeper’s previous declaration that he would like to play for England was met with significant criticism. But England’s dearth of high-quality experienced ‘keepers means the door is still open for the former Celta Vigo player who is eligible for a British passport.

Zavon Hines
West Ham United. Forward. Born in Jamaica. Qualified under parentage – Hines has already played twice for Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21 side but was also called into the Jamaica squad in 2009. The West Ham forward is yet to formally declare for a nation and until the 21-year-old plays a full ‘A’ international the choice is still his.

Carlo Cudicini
Tottenham Hotspur. Goalkeeper. Born in Italy. Qualified under residency – the Italian is no longer first choice, having moved from Chelsea to Spurs but failed to dislodge Brazilian Heurelho Gomes. But should Gomes suffer another dip in form, could Cudicini also force his way into the England set-up despite one cap for Italy at Under-21 level?

Julio Arca
Middlesbrough. Born Argentina. Midfield. Qualified under residency – the left-sided midfielder is one of only two Argentinian players on the planet not called into Diego Maradona’s World Cup qualifying squad. The other is Maradona himself. The former Sunderland player has been resident in England for a decade.

Denílson Pereira Neves (Denílson)
Arsenal. Midfield. Born in Brazil. Qualifies on 16 February 2013 under residency – moving to England aged just 18, Denílson was called up to the full Brazil squad by Dunga nearly four years ago but did not play after pulling out. The São Paulo-born defensive midfielder will qualify for a British passport under the naturalisation process in around a year’s time, and then under the FIFA statute for the England team on his 23rd birthday.

Fabio and Rafael da Silva
Manchester United. Born Brazil. Defenders. Qualify on 9 July 2013 under residency – the Brazilian Nevilles could take a step closer to their United heroes and represent England in just three years time. Portugal coach Carlos Quieroz previously sounded-out the brothers over a role in the Iberian’s national side – a move that was politely turned down. Each has represented Brazil at Under-17 level.

Venus Williams
US Tennis. Unlikley to qualify – Could Venus follow her sister into the full England side? After all Serena overcame the disappointment of being dropped by Capello for the Slovenia World Cup game by donning a frock and winning Wimbledon!

United legend Keane lashes out at ‘average’ England stars

June 29, 2010 Tags: , International 5 comments

Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has lashed out at England manager Fabio Capello’s critics, delivering a player-by-player rating of the national side’s humiliating World Cup failure. Ipswich Town manager Keane derides the England squad as average, shorn of ‘World Class’ players bar Wayne Rooney.

“To keep criticising the manager is crazy. Capello is a brilliant manager,” said Keane said, who made 480 appearances for United.

“The players have to look at themselves. They get away with murder.

“You say that the players are good individuals in the Premier League, but tell me who they are?

“I think Wayne Rooney had a brilliant season. You look at the goalkeepers, I thought David James at Portsmouth, they didn’t have a good season and the other one, Green, at West Ham [United] they just about stayed up.

“Glen Johnson at Liverpool did okay, they had a poor season. John Terry had his issues, I don’t think he had a great season.

“Chelsea won the double but that was down to some world class attacking players. Upson, who played yesterday, West Ham didn’t have a great season.

“Ashley Cole’s just come back from injury to be fair to the boy. [Steven] Gerrard didn’t have a great season at Liverpool, James Milner had a good season.

“[Gareth] Barry I thought was very average for Manchester City this year. [Emile] Heskey started the season up-front for Aston Villa and he got three goals.

“You keep talking about these world class players, and they’re not. Wayne has the best chance but he still hasn’t done it on the world stage.”

Thankfully United > England

June 27, 2010 Tags: , International 11 comments

As England crashed out of the World Cup in the most humiliating fashion perhaps the best consolation for those Reds following the national side is that Manchester’s finest will always be bigger. England’s ‘Golden Generation’ has evolved since Sven Goran Eriksson’s side lost to Brazil in 2002 but the squad’s nucleus remains.

It’s a squad that has now failed five tournaments in a row. The Fool’s Golden Generation.

England’s non-performance in South Africa is perhaps the worst of any in the last decade, bar the side’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008 under the hapless Steven McClaren. Poor against USA, abject in the draw against Algeria, England were little better than mediocre in the scrappy 1-0 win over the tournament’s smallest country Slovenia.

Then came today’s dénouement with Capello’s side taken to pieces by a vastly superior Germany. Out-passed, manoeuvred and thought, England resorted to bringing goal-shy forward Emile Heskey into the action at 4-1 down. If ever a substitution summed up England’s utter incompetence.

Supporters can point to Frank Lampard’s goal-that-never was, with Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda inexplicably missing the Chelsea midfielder’s shot that bounced off the crossbar and then a yard behind the line. In truth any complaints about the officials is a red herring, with John Terry and Matthew Upson performing their best Chuckle Brothers impression for the full 90.

For all Fabio Capello’s previously trophy-laden CV – in the 1990s at least – even the 64-year-old Italian failed to extract more from this group than McClaren or Eriksson before him. Indeed, Eriksson’s side made the quarter-finals of major tournaments in 2002, 2004 and 2006, which is about par for the course over England’s international history.

Indeed, something deeply troubling emerged from this tournament with the players’ almost universally down-tempo performances unveiling a deep unhappiness within the squad.

On taking the post more than two years ago Capello argued that the English played with fear. On today’s evidence they have no belief, , shape, confidence or talent either.

The perennial debate in England will now move on to why national team’s players supposedly under-perform for England when compared to their clubs. It’s a question, however, that particularly misses the point this time out. Of the starting XI against Germany only Wayne Rooney – who looked distinctly unfit in South Africa – the aforementioned Lampard and James Milner had outstanding seasons for their clubs.

Indeed, ‘keeper David James, right-back Glen Johnson and central defenders Terry and Upson each had campaigns to forget in domestic football. It showed today, with the BBC’s Alan Hansen given plenty of cause to discuss England’s ‘schoolboy’ defending post-match.

Perhaps the truth of England’s failure is closer to the quality, or lack thereof, demonstrated in the team’s performances during this tournament. It’s a poor team, with a distinctly average set of players that Capello has failed to gel into something greater than the sum of its parts. The stubborn addiction to a system that restricted too many of England’s limited pool of talent is just one of Capello’s major failings in South Africa.

Which brings us back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s United. The United manager has, with ever dwindling transfer funds, managed to squeeze every last ounce out of an ageing squad last season. The proud Scot has turned down England on three occasions but there is no doubt this England group, although limited in world terms, would have benefited from Ferguson’s continuing magic.

The Football Association, having successfully negotiated an end to Capello’s mid-contract break clause, may now live to regret that decision. It’ll cost the FA about £12 million to sack the Italian when the board holds its biannual inquest into English failure at a major tournament later this summer. His replacement certainly won’t be Ferguson this time either.

With the ineffective Rooney now off on a well-earned holiday, and Park Ji-Sung and Javier Hernandéz also knocked out in the round of 16, United now has no representative’s in South Africa. Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and Nani didn’t play a minute in the tournament, while Patrice Evra, Nemenja Vidic and Zoran Tosic left South Africa in the group stages. It bodes well for the squad’s freshness next season.

As for England – we’ll return to the same debate about the side’s failure when it is inevitably knocked out of Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine in two years time.

If Roy Hodgson’s team makes it that far of course.

All bar Rooney impervious to criticism

June 21, 2010 Tags: , , International 8 comments

Perhaps the most shocking element of the fallout from England’s meek performances at the World Cup is not that striker Wayne Rooney has borne the brunt of criticism but that so few others have been singled out, let alone stepped forward to shoulder any responsibility for failure. Rooney alone is now the media’s principal target.

Fabio Capello’s decision to drop goalkeeper Rob Green for England’s match against Algeria Friday night has ended that debate and in turn increased the pressure on Rooney.

Indeed, Rooney’s performances in South Africa have been quiet in the face of minimal support from midfield or the English flanks. Dropping ever deeper against Algeria, Rooney reverted to the striker of years past in a desperate attempt to bring himself into the game when others could not.

But while the media – and especially England fans – have largely heaped the pressure on Manchester United’s 34-goal striker, England’s troubles lie elsewhere in the mediocrity of a poor quality team and manager resistant to change.

In the match against Algeria, as the with England’s draw with the USA, Capello’s side failed to retain possession of the ball; the English disease. While former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer exaggerated the depths of England’s travails – calling Cappello’s tactics “kick and rush” – the side’s age-old inability to retain the ball while maneuvering opponents out of position again came to the fore.

Defensively more secure against the North Africans than in England’s previous World Cup match, Capello’s team was still unable to assert any significant assault on the Algerian net. Resorting first to hitting hapless forward Emile Heskey from back-to-front, the English then worked the channels to no great effect, eschewing any attempt to play through midfield.

While Capello made the sensible decision to break up the ego-laden partnership of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard for Friday’s draw, neither that celebrated pair nor the returning Gareth Barry offered any creativity from midfield, let alone a decent pass to a team-mate.

Meanwhile Tottenham Hotspur’s normally dangerous Aaron Lennon was reduced to cutting inside and playing a square ball rather than taking on his opponent.

Unsurprisingly Capello has retained both the formation and personnel that qualified for the World Cup so impressively. The Italian’s record of domestic success and apparent ability to turn around England’s fortunes following Steve McClaren’s shambolic reign earned the 64-year-old the right to stick firmly to plan A.

But it’s a system that uses few of England’s better players in their club positions. Rooney, now the lone forward at Old Trafford, is asked to drop a little deeper with England. Gerrard, frequently used just behind the road-running Fernando Torres at Anfield, is now consigned to the left-wing. Even Frank Lampard normally operates from the security of a three-man Chelsea midfield.

Little wonder then that Rooney has been presented with so few half chances in two matches to date, let alone a genuine opportunity to release the pressure.

Why then such heavy criticism laid at the Scouser’s door when neither Gerrard nor Lampard have shone to date? After all should Capello, as some English media and supporters are now clamoring for, drop the United striker it is hardly going to help the team retain the ball.

There is of course far greater focus on what Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday called “the big players” – he should know having failed to score for Portugal during open play for nearly two years. On the team’s best player lies the burden of responsibility.

There is also a strong element within the English supporter base that has no love for United’s representatives within the squad – even Rooney.

The sensible – perhaps even safe – option for Capello in England’s final group game against Slovenia on Wednesday afternoon is to go with plan B, and restore the player’s preferred 4-3-3 formation against the Eastern Europeans.

John Terry’s rapidly aborted attempt at a players’ coup yesterday not only revealed the Chelsea-player’s Sir Colin Campbell-esque denial that he is no longer captain but also a widespread belief that restoring the majority of England’s best players to their club positions is the route to success.

After all, using Rooney as England’s principal forward cannot yield fewer results than Heskey has to date no matter how far the United man has under-performed. Nor can pushing Gerrard into ‘the hole’ behind United’s striker isolate the Liverpool-captain any further. Bringing Joe Cole into the left-side of a three man attack will also add much needed variety to England’s play.

Perhaps most importantly the switch will surely liberate Rooney to perform as he has for United all season.

The alternative – the media’s option – is to drop England’s best player, in one fell swoop securing his status as preferred scapegoat while ensuring the English return home even earlier than many expected.

Scholes: Manchester > England

May 12, 2010 Tags: , , International 4 comments

Paul Scholes turned down Fabio Capello’s plea to join the England squad at the World Cup in South Africa this summer, preferring instead to stay in Manchester with his wife and kids. Capello wanted Scholes, who retired from international football aged just 29, to add quality to an England midfield desperately short of experience.

Still technically the best midfielder in the country, Scholes long hated traveling with the England squad before his retirement after the Euro 2004 tournament. Sven Goran Eriksson’s insistence on playing Europe’s finest central midfielder on the left-wing hardly helped.

Capello revealed he has tried to tempt Scholes out of retirement for the past two months. But Scholes, who once claimed that “Manchester is the best place on earth,” was never likely to reverse a six year-old decision.

“Yes but it was up to him,” Capello confirmed when he announced England’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup yesterday.

“He said no, he preferred to stay with the family in Manchester. But I tried.”

Capello is not the first to fail, Steve McClaren also tried to bring the Bury-born midfielder, who has won 66 caps, out of retirement.

Scholes scored 13 goals in his first 39 internationals before Eriksson began to tinker with the midfielder’s place in the England side, essentially preferring the failed Frank Lampard-Steven Gerrard axis.

Poll: Rio right for England job?

February 5, 2010 Tags: , , , Polls 2 comments

The king is dead; long live the king. Rio Ferdinand is the new England captain following manager Fabio Capello’s decision to sack John Terry this afternoon. Terry, caught cheating on his wife for the umpteenth time, found his position ‘untenable’ – to abuse the much overused cliché.

Fabio appointed Ferdinand with immediate effect and Steven Gerrard will step up to vice-captain. But is it the right choice?

Ferdinand, frequently Manchester United captain when fit, has appeared just eight times this season for the Reds, with a long-term back complaint requiring lengthy osteopathic treatment. There’s certainly no guarantee that the former-West Ham United player will make the plane to South Africa this summer.

Rant’s choice was Wayne Rooney – United and England’s talismanic striker, who would lead by example. What’s yours?

Is Rio the right choice for England captain?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The case for captain Rooney

February 2, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 6 comments

In the wake of the John Terry sex scandal many have called for a leadership change at international level. Far be it for Rant to pass judgment on Terry’s extra-curricular activities – the Chelsea captain has always been an odious toerag anyway – but now is the time for Wayne Rooney to take the responsibility his performances command.

Rooney has not always been an obvious choice for the role, with controversy seemingly dogging the forward during the early part of his career. Rooney saw red playing for England at the 2006 FIFA World Cup for a stamp on Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho. There have also been three further indiscretions playing for United.

There have also been allegations of impropriety in his personal life. Early in the forward’s relationship with Coleen Rooney, allegations appeared in the News of the World that Rooney had previously slept with aging prostitutes. While the forward made no comment, the prostitute in question eventually denied the claim and sued the paper, and Coleen went public in forgiving the player.

Then in 2006, Rooney claimed £100,000 in libel damages from The Sun and News of the World, who earlier printed unfounded stories that he beat Coleen in a nightclub.

But a new maturity off the pitch – marriage and the subsequent birth of a son, Kai – match that on the pitch. While the striker still plays with passion and fire the tantrums have relented and his aggression is more controlled. More to the point, Rooney is now the natural talisman for both England and United. The pressure placed on his shoulders is no more acute as captain. Indeed, he may thrive on it.

It is only in England that the public, fueled by the tabloid press, demands a stereotypical ‘up-and-at-em’ British Bulldog as captain. Terry is the ultimate embodiment of pointless fist-pumping patriotism that masks, in the eyes of too many, his obvious limitations as a player and person.

Typically other nations choose either the oldest or best player as captain, with an expectation that they lead through example. Proving the point, Spain’s captain is Iker Casillas, Italy’s is the modest Fabio Cannavaro, while Thierry Henry now leads France in the regular absence of Patrick Vieira.

Some of the great football leaders of the past had no need to recite passages from Henry V – Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, Pélé, and Maradona to name just a few.

The England captain also serves as the team’s media spokesperson, a role that Terry both loathes and is unsuitable for. Indeed, should Terry keep the captaincy he will face a barrage of questions not about football but his sexual exploits that now, allegedly, extends to affairs with nine women behind his wife’s back.

Meanwhile, Rooney has emerged not only as an engaging interviewee with honest opinions but one that is widely respected as man and player.

Rooney has not yet been considered for the role as Manchester United’s captain by Sir Alex Ferguson. The striker lies behind Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and possibly even John O’Shea for the role.

But that is of little consequence to the international role. After all, as the Old Trafford faithful know, United > England.