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How do you solve a problem like the England national team?

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Another tournament, another national team failure. Sound familiar England fans? After the Three Lions' latest Euro Under 21 team exit after a 3-1 defeat to Italy we arrive, once again, at the seemingly endless debate of what is wrong with the side.

The England Under 21 team failed to perform at this European championship. Again. The win against Sweden brought some slight relief and hope, glossing over the fact that they weren’t that good in the game. The match against Italy brought everyone straight back down to earth.

We’ve been hearing throughout this competition that the camaraderie in the squad is good. Players are relaxed, enjoying the set up and don’t feel like it’s a chore to be at this tournament. That’s all fine but this doesn’t address the problem.

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After watching that Italy game the defending was as bad as you will see at this level. Particularly on the third Italian goal. The Italian goals weren’t that great, they were founded in English defensive errors. To lose focus, not once, not twice but three times is calamitous. The team was punished for those lapses in concentration and rightly so.

At the moment this seems to be a recurring theme going all the way up to the senior team too. Suarez at the World Cup and both goals against Slovenia were all founded in basic defensive errors that shouldn’t be occurring at such a high level.

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What is perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of creativity from midfield. All the play is robotic and no one is brave enough, or willing, to be the one to seize the moment and really express themselves.

You get the feeling that the players are playing within themselves. This could be because they are scared of making a mistake, and the media backlash that comes with that, or it has been trained out of them.

This is also apparent at senior level too. That diabolical Republic of Ireland game is a perfect example. Roy Hodgson isn’t a popular England manager because there is a lack of flair an excitement under him.

Look at the opening game of the World Cup against Italy. Granted we lost but for once the shackles were taken off and there seemed to be some promise. Afterwards England reverted to type and it was awful to watch.

Until England, at all levels, embrace the maverick creative players and give them a platform to make things happen then the nation is going nowhere.You can have your defensively solid individuals to keep you from losing but it’s the players who produce the magic than win you the games.

It’s also worth pointing out that England do not have a philosophy as such. Far too often we are concerned with the opposition rather than having faith in what we can do. This transmits a distinct lack of self-confidence in amongst the team, tying in with that lack of creative spark. No wonder the players seem to keep passing the ball sideways.

England’s defenders need to focus more and the midfield needs to be braver. Easier said than done, I know, but if we fix this then we might just be able to enjoy watching our national teams play again. Maybe one day…

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Topics:
Football
Gareth Southgate
England Football

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