Richard Williams took part in a live webchat from Ukraine to discuss England's departure from the tournament and all things Euro 2012-related
Good afternoon. The Guardian's chief sports writer Richard Williams will be online from 2pm BST to take part in a live webchat. Please post any Euro 2012-related questions in the comments section below.
In the meantime, why not take the time to read Richard's piece on England's exit. It begins:
Reduced to a threadbare scuffling long before the end of what came to feel like an interminable evening, England did not deserve to bar Italy's way to the semi‑finals of Euro 2012. Not that the winners displayed an particular distinction. For the half-hour of extra time, indeed, it felt as though there was only one real footballer on the pitch. Andrea Pirlo, aged 33 and at the end of an exhausting season, continued to play as though the game were a matter of touch and beauty.
That neither side could prevail over 120 minutes spoke poorly of both. They started well and slowly fell away, albeit at different rates, Italy lasting the better but still unable to command the occasion with real conviction against a team eventually exposed for what it was in reality: the product of barely a month's preparation.
MB249, who asks: "Chelsea won the Champions League with 8 foreign players believe Bayern had 7 or 8 Germans in their team. This is at the heart as to why our national team is so poor. What can be done to give young Englaish palyers a greater chance of playing in the premiership?"Richard Williams has arrived in the comments section, and begins by responding to
Hello, everybody. It's a hot afternoon in Kyiv, and it's going to be a much quieter evening than yesterday. There are still a few England fans mooching around the streets; maybe some of them will stay for what could be a classic final on Sunday, whichever combination of teams is involved.
Let's start with MB249's very pertinent question. The saddest statistic in English football is not the one that exposes how many times Joe Hart kicked the ball long to Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll last night. It's the one about how only 30-odd per cent of the players in the Premier League are qualified to play for England, as opposed to 70-odd per cent of La Liga's players being eligible for Spain or only a little less than that in the Bundesliga being qualified for Germany.
Until we sort that out, the England manager's choice of players with top-flight experience is going to be very limited. Can it be done? The new Premier League TV deal makes it even less likely, I'd say. They've done brilliantly, in business terms, to double their income from domestic rights. But that just makes it more likely that you'll be watching an Eden Hazard rather than a Josh McEachran.
English football is trying to pull in two different directions, one of them much stronger in financial and organisational terms than the other. So I don't really know the answer. As long as the Premier League is such an attraction at home and abroad, success at any price -- with the means to pay it -- will be the priority.
peterainbow asks: "can someone tell me why 90% of goal kicks etc either went straight to an italian player or to and england head then to an italian player, i mean could they not practice this and get at least 50%?"
Full backs positioned too high at goalkicks and clearaces, maybe. and Roy's 4-4-2 meant that there was seldom anyone in the centre circle. It's no way to play the game in the 21st century. Kicking long should used as a surprise tactic, at best.
has a question on England's future tactical shape: "Do you think Hodgson will continue to persist with his rigid 4-4-2 system, even when the likes of Wilshere return from injury, and players such as Cleverley and McEachran continue their development?"Redblooded
Nothing in Roy's history suggests that he will be diverted from the tactics he's used for more than 30 years. There's something to be said for that. He's not a fool, as the fans of Fulham and West Brom will attest. But it takes him time to get players working to his pattern, through irgorous and repetitive drills,day after day, week after week, and when does an international coach have the time for that?
It would please me enormously if he recognised that some of the younger players -- like the two you mention -- have skills that would flourish more readily in a slightly different setting. I'd hate to see them restricted by the need to conform to what I'm afraid I see as an outdated philosophy, certainly in international football.
MickGJ: "The strategy that works best for England seems to be to have Rooney in the squad but not to let him on the pitch. Is this viable going forward?"A question on Wayne Rooney's iffy performances in the tournament, courtesy of
Good question. Rooney has become a problem. Sometimes through fate, sometimes through his own fault, he has succeeded in making no positive impact on an England campaign in a major tournament since the start of Euro 2004, before the first of his metatarsal injuries. This time it was very definitely his own fault that he was unable to play in the first two matches. That created a distraction for everybody and particularly for Hodgson, who -- as if he didn't have enough on his plate, taking the job a months before the start of the tournament -- effectively had to think about creating two teams, one with Rooney and one without.
H can't have been match fit when he came back for the Ukraine match. That stands to reason. He didn't look completely physically fit to me, either, which is a worry. His metabolism and body shape must make it difficult, anyway, but it may be that England would have done better had he been excluded from the while tournament. When Roy made the substitutions last night, I felt that it was Rooney, not Welbeck, who deserved to come off, although if the alternative was Carroll I'd have left them both on.
The future? He's only 27. In theory he has another three, maybe four major tournaments to come. But isn't it time to look at him not as a superstar but as just another member of the squad, whose place is determined by form, fitness and tactics? I'll write a bit more about this in tomorrow's Guardian.
RogerBeckermann asks: "Would the inclusion players who are comfortable on the ball e.g. ex-West Ham trio Joe Cole, Carrick and Rio or Swansea's Leon Britton (93.3% Pass Completion) or others from non-Champions League teams, have made a difference to England's performance at Euro 2012?Returning to the theory that the Premiership is harming England's international team,
"The problem with only picking players from the teams at the top of the prem is that within these teams the creativity is mainly supplied by foreign players. Hodgson needs to look at teams further down the league, teams that rely on their English players for creativity and invention."
Good point about foreign players providing the creativity. The case of McEachran on loan at Swansea this season, sidelined by the arrival of Gylfi Sigurdsson, is a good example -- and that's even under the enlightened Brendan Rodgers.
I didn't see enough of Joe Cole at Lille to know whether he still warrants the place I'd always like to have seem him get. Carrick wouldn't have fitted Roy's specification for the two central midfielders (or mine, I'm afraid). It wouldn't have been great to see Leon Britton tried before the tournament. But only in a different formation from the one Roy likes.
a question about the world's 12th best footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo: "If Portugal Loses in the semis will it hinder Cristiano's chances for the Ballon d'Or?"And now
I imagine so. But don't you think Messi is a certainty for his fourth in a row (if we count the old European Ballon d'Or and the new-style Fifa World one)? His third goal against Brazil in New York the other day, to complete the 4-3 over Argentina, was worth a golden ball on its own. But this year I'd give it to Pirlo, whatever happens over the next few days. And I'd have said that before last night (as you can confirm if you look back at a couple of pieces I've written about him in recent weeks -- not just being wise after the event). The way he came back from being discarded by Milan to inspire Juventus to the Serie A title was pretty wonderful. And he deserves it for his whole career, anyway. He's been a joy.
from mainland Europe: "I live in Germany and I'm English... and the English football team is regarded as the Dinosaurs of Football, it's a little embarrassing. Roy Hodgson is to blame!!! that's for sure as 50% of the English players are somehow world class."A view on the England team
Hm. The Danish view is interesting. I had a conversation with one of the Danish FA's coaches on the way to the airport the other day and he confirmed your opinion. They think, very politely, that Roy belongs to yesterday. And, of course, they know him because he worked there. When I wrote about that and suggested that his involvement in the future of English tactical coaching -- via St George's Park and the age-group teams -- might be a mixed blessing, I took a lot of flak from people who might now be beginning to see what I meant. I mean no disrespect to Roy, a real football man in the best sense. He just might not be exactly what England need.
Cryogenic is frustrated with the FA for not making sweeping changes earlier: "This tournament was always going to be a 'learning curve' for England and Roy, given the shambles that was the FA dilly-dallying their search for a new manager.
"But England are no different then they were in 2000, or 2004. In fact, the other day I found an article written by Williams about the England team needing to take French lessons, very good read even if it was 10 years ago.
"Just why has it taken the FA so long to revamp their coaching sessions and press ahead to build an academy? They have had the investment for decades now, mainly from the Premier League, yet have done nothing."
Thanks for pointing out that not everything I write is nonsense. The delay in modernising England's approach has been absolutely lamentable, caused by the conservative, self-protecting behaviour of people at the top of the FA. It's changing. Finally kids are going to be playing on smaller pitches with smaller sides, like they've been doing for so long elsewhere -- Holland, for instance. St George's Park at Burton on Trent is a good thing, because it's a place that-- all being well -- will turn out more people like Brendan Rodgers. Trevor Brooking has good ideas. Is Gareth Southgate the right man to be the technical director, doing the job for England that Gerard Houllier did so brilliantly for France at Clairefontaine and the regional academies in the 1990s? Southgate -- if he gets the job -- won't have it as easy, because the French clubs were weak and the Premier League clubs are... not weak at all. They crack the whip. So the technical director will have to concentrate on educating young coaches who can then get the jobs at the PL clubs.
hojo compares Germany's approach, attitude and infrastructure to that of England's. Unfavourably.
You're right. It's all over. Let's give up immediately.
Seriously, I'm not the first to point out that it's a blessing in disguise not to be meeting Germany in the semi-finals this week. At the current respective stages of development of the two sides, it might have inflicted a defeat that would have taken England even longer than usual to get over, and damaged self-confidence in a way that Gelsenkirchen didn't (because of the consolation of the blatant unfairness of the Lampard "goal"). Or I suppose, football being football, it might not. But best not to find out just now, eh?
EminEmma29 asks why England weren't able to sustain their performance against Italy: "I thought England played well in the first 20 minutes, why were thay not able to play the same for the rest of the game? Are they heading in the right direction (style of play under Roy), it does not seem so to me?"
You're dead right about the first 20 minutes. At that stage I was thinking what a good game of football it was for a neutral to watch. You'd probably need the ProZone printouts to get a clue as to why both teams fell away -- England much faster and further than Italy, of course. I don't think tiredness had much to do with it. England do have a history of failing to sustain good performance levels: something to do with a lack of real self-belief, I think. All sorts of complicated psychological factors are at play in the mental make-up of an England football team, to do with the damage to self-esteem caused by high expectations versus low achievement.
Avonduke questions the FA's priorities: "Was last night one result of the FA spending £750m on a stadium we don't need (there are numerous good stadia around England now) rather than coaching young players properly?"A commenter named
There's probably something in that. The whole Wembley saga was a disaster. Yes, they finally built a smart 21st century stadium, but it should always have had a convertible track and field element and then it could have been used for the Olympics, which would have brought in some more money. Instead another £500m has been wasted on another stadium with a very uncertain future. And yes, that FA money could have been better spent. It would have been a good sign -- a statement of priorities -- to have St George's Park up and running before the new Wembley, for instance.
LSE2002 asks who would be a better pick for England manager than Roy Hodgson:"What or who do you think would be better for England in the future? Its so easy to criticise someone after they've been narrowly eliminated from a tournament."
Sorry, LSE2002, but I criticised them before they were eliminated. Not trying to sound clever. Just not jumping on a bandwagon. And "Nobody cares what the Danish FA thinks" is exactly the sort of attitude that's got England where they are. Along with "...had Young and Cole scored." Well, they didn't.
opines Simon Rake.
"I think the quality of English players would be enhanced hugely by experiencing different footballing cultures and the English team would benefit enormously."
In theory, yes. That's a very enlightened view. But it's not going to happen. We aren't producing players with the right skills or attitude, and the wages available in English football keep them at home, where they don't have to confront foreign languages and unfamiliar food. And I don't remember the experiences of Kevin Keegan, Trevor Francis, Glenn Hoddle, Ray Wilkins and others benefitting English's performances in tournaments, even though they all distinguished themselves abroad.
ForestPhil. "After all, when he picked him in the squad, he cited how impressed he was with him when he played 'against' Pirlo in the Champions League this last season for Arsenal, against Milan. (even though Pirlo had left some months before for Juve!!)""I'm surprised Roy didn't start with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain last night" says
My guess is that Roy saw enough of Oxlade-Chamberlain to conclude that although he's definitely one for the future, this tournament came a year too early for him. Whether or not he ended up protecting him, I think he made the right decision. Not that AOC appears to need much protecting. He's a very bright, well balanced young man. Let's hope he fulfills his potential.
And cut Roy some slack on the memory front over Pirlo. One day you'll discover that the memory fills up and won't accept data in the way it did before. That doesn't mean (he said pleadingly) that the actual judgement is impaired. Feel free to disagree.
RedGiant23 thought England stunk out the tournament, and writes: "We have to stop coveting big and fact players and embrace smaller and more skilful ones. We need a few more Beardsleys. If Messi, Xavi or Inesta were English, they would not get into a school team because they were too small!
"Given the money ploughed into academies at most clubs, why do most of the big clubs fail to produce decent English talent?"
In response I'll refer back something I said earlier: the new emphasis on seven-a-sife and nine-a-side matches on small pitches should help kids who aren't potential Andy Carrolls. But it's no good just trawling for tiddlers. The most constructive thing to do is remember that football is a game for people of all sizes.
happygoth returns to the Rooney question, noting the Man United striker "is an awkward fit in a counter-attacking side," and asks:
"Which do you think should be Hodgson's priority in the qualifiers: getting the best out of Rooney, or establishing a system-based culture in which every player, regardless of ability and international experience, understands their role ?"
I'd go for deciding on the system you want, and then getting it right. Which means that if Rooney isn't what you need, you have to leave him out. Like Ramsey left out Greaves -- the best English finisher in the history of our football -- in '66. It broke his heart and disappointed a lot of other people, including very good judges, but the World Cup was won.
anAfriKaanSknowman's contends that England's defence was "tactically very primitive."
Actually, I don't think it's a sign of poor defending. I think it's a sign of a midfield that isn't structured in a way that helps it to retain possession. So the ball is constantly coming straight back at the defenders, who are forced into taking extreme measures. If you're suggesting John Terry is a coward -- well, there are probably a lot of things you can call him, but that's not one. Although Alexis Sanchez might agree with you, I suppose.
harrogateandrew wonders if Hodgson is right to discount possession statistics: " I find this a little disturbing as the Spanish equate possession with control & are not so picky or prickly on the subject. Is Hodgson missing the point or is he being disingenuous? I wonder."
I think he's right. The indiscriminate use of statistics to "prove" points is the bane of football at the moment. Barca and Spain get those possession statistics because that's the way they play. It's not the only way. You can win a match with 35 per cent possession and play good football at the same time, as Jose Mourinho sometimes proves (Puts on tin hat, retreats underground).
shedend wonders if too much has been made of the return of Jack Wilshere: "From what I've seen, he has the potential, but how would he fit into Hodgson's rigid 4-4-2? More pertinently, would Hodgson have played him even if he was fit?"
We've made an awful lot of Wilshere. His talent justifies it. But it's going to be tough for him when he comes back. I agree that he wouldn't fit easily into Roy's 4-4-2. He's talented and adaptable enough to do it, but he'd be much better used alongside, say, Rodwell or Cleverley in the 2 of a 4-2-3-1, occasionally switching with the middle player of the 3. Anyway, here's hoping he comes back unimpaired and picks up his career exactly where he left it. And I'm not an Arsenal fan.
TarzanofNazareth bemoans a lack of tactical flexibility in England's play: "England really needed to bring on another midfielder on to change the shape and put more pressure on the Italian midfield yet all they did was drop further back. They should have probably taken Rooney off first, for either Walcott or Chamberlain and moved Milner into a more central position, to at least try and get hold of the ball a bit more, or Italy and Pirlo a bit less.They weren't even chasing the game, just needing to get aback into it a bit. Maybe it wouldn't have worked but continuing to do the same thing over and over when it ain't working - it's a sign of madness."
I agree with most of that but one of Roy's strengths is that he knows what he wants and he's not going to do what somebody else wants. That can be a weakness, too. So we can be pretty sure that he's not going to change the team's shape in the middle of a match.
Barimaan wonders if we can learn from Germany's thoroughness: "Is it not also interesting how differently the nations approach such a tournament. For what I know, Germany approached it with a clear goal, and that was to win it, and asked themselves what they can do to improve their chances, so they took it from there, and now a workgroup consisting of 40 students of the Sport-University Cologne sends J-Low a 600 page dossier before each game analysing everything of the opponents, all the facts of each of the players, e.g. what little movements Ronaldo does before embarking onto one of his famous dribblings. The result was that Boateng & Hummels knew him inside out when it came to the clash, and Ronaldo became ineffective. Why couldn't the English come up with this sort of preparation and planning? It surely cant be down to money..."
Different mentalities, I guess. It'll be interesting to see what happens if Germany meet Portugal in the final. Will all those statistics ensure a German victory, or might there be some other factor? Personally, I'm rather depressed by the thought of 40 students concentrating on football statistics rather than, say, searching for a cure for cancer. I don't really want football to be determined by research, even though the way Germany play is often very beautiful.
"Do you think that the perennial repetition in England's fate and the subsequent inability to draw the consequences [and develop a long-term plan, youth-development, etc (the usual)] is in fact a larger structural problem related to difficulties of conceptualising the 'English Nation'? It appears to me that the completely new beginning that is/would be necessary is constantly avoided. (Paul Gilroy has described this as 'postcolonial melancholia')"
Thanks. Yes, I do think there's more to it than just whether or not the players can control the ball. There's an uncertainty in England about what national pride means and what its value is. Not many people think it's about shaking your fist and bellowing in the style of the Barmy Army. Some do, but not many. The rest, frankly, aren't sure. That does indeed make it harder to imbue a team with a collective will. But sometimes we make it work, as the rugby and cricket teams have showed on occasion. But on those occasions the personnel and coaching were absolutely right. Without those ingredients, we don't have the other thing to fall back on. Which may, in some senses, make us nicer people. I really don't know.
And with that, I must say thank you and good afternoon. Sorry I couldn't reply to all. Two good semis coming up, I should think. And potentially a great final. I'm only sorry that it will inevitably be preceded by Uefa's children's-party nonsense: the (male) cheerleaders, the countdown, etc. See you around.