Are our expectations at International level realistic?
I am founder of jdfootballbetting.com and I write for goal.com as a betting blogger and pundit. My background is in the stock market sector and have always had a passion for foot...
With a deep menu of World Cup qualifiers on the agenda this week, today on the blog James D asks the question: are we are hoping for too much on the international stage?
Giovanni Trapattoni and Craig Levein are both managers under pressure this week and if you believe speculation, likely to lose their jobs in the near future.
Trapattoni in particular, has good reason to feel aggrieved at the wave of negativity against him with the Irish public and press alike. Even before Republic of Ireland had qualified for Euro 2012, Trap was subject to plenty of criticism from many quarters for his style and personnel choices. This criticism was found to be misguided as he led Republic of Ireland to their first European Championship since 1988.
Indeed , the campaign to qualify for the World Cup in 2010 was only cruelly denied by the hand of Thierry Henry and the Irish team has consistently finished in the top 2 of both qualifying groups under the experienced guide of the Italian tactician. As a sign of the progress of the Irish team under Trap he also improved their FIFA ranking from 42 to a high of 18 in June but which has slipped to 28 on the back of the early and expected elimination at Euro 2012.Yet if you ask members of the public and press, a majority will have a negative view of 'Il Trap'.
The performance at Euro 2012 was indeed disappointing but if we take a closer look at the quality of players that is available , perhaps qualifying was the real achievement.
A study in September , showed that only one Irish player plays in the Champions League, the highest level of club competition in Europe. To put that in perspective, that is the same amount as Armenia, Guinea and DR Congo.
Our group opponents at Euro 2012 Spain, Italy and Croatia have a combined total of 69 players competing in the highest technical club competition in Europe, an average of 23 each. Zero Irish players are involved in the Europa League this season.
This is a wider problem amongst Republic of Ireland and the British nations in terms of producing players of real technical ability. England failed to qualify for tournaments in 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1978 and have consistently falling short at tournaments. It is only now that the English FA are acting with the opening of St. Georges Park , designed to coach the coaches and focus more on technical development of young players.
Scotland last qualified for a tournament in 1998 and certainly could do with some of the talents they possessed in generations before. Wales have only qualified for one World Cup in their history , 1958 . Northern Ireland have declined significantly and qualification for any tournament seems a remote possibility for the foreseeable future.
In this part of the world, we seem to be obsessed with producing players of speed and power and we have neglected the technical aspect of the game. This technical deficit gets exposed at International level and results suffer.
The reality is Republic of Ireland had top class performers in the past and coincided with the most successful period between 1988 and 1992. Top class players such as Liam Brady, Ronnie Whelan,Paul McGrath, Ray Houghton,Kevin Moran Frank Stapleton, John Aldridge all wore the Irish jersey during this period so it was no surprise that they qualified for Euro 88 and Italia 90 and made an impact at these tournaments.
Qualification for 1994 World Cup was no surprise either as Jack Charlton could call on two World class defenders at the time in Paul McGrath and Denis Irwin. Roy Keane was also available for that squad and developed into one of the best midfield players in the world. Steve Staunton, Ray Houghton and John Aldridge were experienced additions to the USA 94 cause who have all won a league winners medal at Liverpool and were high class performers.
Unfortunately the well of talent has dried up in recent years and the solution is not found in the managerial hot seat. It is a wider structural problem within our football that is the real problem which means we do not produce enough players that are in tune with the technical demands of the International game.
The proof is in results and before our very eyes. Look at a recording of Scotland v Macedonia at Hampden Park recently. Macedonia had players with a better first touch, ball control and ball retention than their hosts.
Look at the Euro 2012 QF between England and Italy. How come Italy could pass and retain the ball and England could not hold it for more than 3 or 4 passes?.
There will be more examples this week as our nations try , mostly in vain to qualify for Brazil 2014. Trapattoni and Levein will leave their jobs soon and there will be few tears shed in the wider public but if you want to know the reason for your International fortunes, you must look beyond the manager.
Follow James on Twitter: @JDTIPS
Read more of James work on his blog at Goal.com
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The issue might be a pandemic one that stems from the grassroots of football that is played away from the mainland Europe. England itself have grassroot problems when it comes to technical and tactical skills level compare to their European counterpart and when you put Scotland, Wales, Ireland and N. Ireland then they are further away from the rest of the European superpower. Apart from the Irish fans doing justice at the Euro 2012, the Irish team was no where near the level that the european top nation were on and when asked where England, then they have better players but still far. Therefore it will take time to find that golden generation once again and if investment is meant to be up to Premiership clubs to do all the hard work then it will definitely be some time or even by chance to see these teams flourish.