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Rooney has struggled for form and fitness at major tournaments.

Three ways in which England can become an international force again

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Be honest, when could England last be described as a force to be reckoned with on the international stage?

The Three Lions have failed to perform in a competitive tournament since their heroics in reaching the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championships, during which they were hosts and expected to reach such a stage.

As a result, you could argue that Italia '90 was the last tournament in which England truly excelled and showcased their true talents.

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Whilst the failings of the England national team are well-known and accepted, resolving these shortcomings is far more difficult. One thing is for sure - it will take many years and perhaps an entire generation before England will be considered an international powerhouse once again.

Going forward, however, there are three steps the FA and Centre of Excellence could take to help restore England's reputation and create a generation of players with genuine quality.

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Create greater emphasis on technique at grassroots level

Youth football is stereotypically energetic, committed and played at a high tempo. Urged on by passionate friends and family, the frantic way in which England's aspiring footballers play makes it almost impossible for flair players to hone, develop and display their technical ability.

It's long been accepted that there is a technical deficiency among England’s elite players, which is often exposed at the highest level. To help negate this issue, the FA need to revolutionise academy training and prioritise short-sided games, such as Futsal, rather than placing such an emphasis on pace, physique and physical capacity.

England v Portugal - UEFA Under21 European Championship 2015

After all, if this was the metric abroad, Lionel Messi would never have made the Barcelona first team.

If you're unfamiliar with Futsal, it's essentially an improved version of five-a-side football and one that currently has 1.5 million adults playing in the UK. The benefits of the fast-growing sport include offering a more realistic and skills-based interpretation and could prove vital to the development of youth.

Introduce a winter break

Whilst the majority of Europe’s elite players spend the winter resting their weary limbs in front of a roaring fire, England’s starters are embarking on their busiest period of the year in the domestic league and FA Cup.

In fact, top-flight English clubs play between six and seven more games, forced to compete in the most physically demanding of all domestic football competitions.

Liverpool v Arsenal - Premier League

With this in mind, it's little wonder that England’s players are usually burnt out come the summer, with players such as Wayne Rooney renowned for entering major international tournaments carrying injuries.

It is crucial, therefore, that the FA consider restructuring their domestic format to allow for a winter break, whether this involves extending the season or axing the League Cup to create additional dates for league fixtures.

Such a change has been resisted because it goes against the grain of history, but the FA must focus on establishing a schedule that protects top-flight English players and takes into account the physical nature of the Premier League.

Change the mentality of top-flight players

Historically, youngsters growing up in England wanted nothing more than to star in an FA Cup final and lift the coveted trophy.

The financial benefits of securing a top-four spot and qualifying for the Champions League has superseded this desire, however, creating a generation of players who would rather enjoy a solid league showing than lift silverware at the end of the season.

Arsenal v Hull City - FA Cup Final

This has undoubtedly diminished the will to win amongst top-flight stars, especially in knockout tournaments, where a specific set of skills are required to manage games and overcome the opposition.

These are serious issues, which have ultimately created a series of soft and ill-equipped England teams that lack a true winning mentality.

While there is little the FA can do about this, they should at least look to incentivise teams to prioritise domestic cup competitions. It would be a great idea to progress the winners of the FA Cup to the Champions League, for example, rather than awarding an additional place to the team that finishes fourth in the league.

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Topics:
England Football
Premier League
Football
Wayne Rooney

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