The Three Lions, Pretenders or Contenders?
The 30th of July, 1966 is a day that English football fans will never forget but, at times, seems lost in a sea of memories, photos and statistics. When Bobby Moore raised the World Cup that day, it was an extraordinary celebration of England’s victory over the West Germans, but more importantly, the Cup had finally found its way home. One couldn’t help but think this would be the beginning of many more World Cup titles. Alas, 11 Championships and nearly 47 years later, there still remains but one star above those three proud Lions! Throngs of English supporters are asking the question: Is Brazil 2014 our time to shine again?
The qualification process saw England draw European minnows Moldova and San Marino, as well as the Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro. This was, by all appearances, a very winnable group for the FIFA World seventh ranked team. Currently, Hodgson’s team sits second in their pool, one win and two points behind the surprising stars of the group Montenegro. With four matches remaining and four countries with legitimate opportunities to qualify, it’s still all to be played for. This may make one wonder, what has put the Three Lions in this predicament?
In a day and age where media and accessibility to information is at an extreme abundance, it seems sporting figures and the sides they represent are forced to run the proverbial gauntlet on both the pitch and in the press room. No such place is as ravenous for this fodder as the birthplace of Football. Professional pundits, arm chair fans and pub dwellers alike are quick to pounce on news of the National team; both management and players, and their personal and sporting successes or failures. Perhaps these enormous feelings of pressure, expectation and the dire need for success that resonate year in and year out are the root cause of what seems to be an endless drought for England’s National team.
As the Three Lions attempt to gain qualification to the next World Cup and the outlets of pressure and scrutiny inevitably heat up, one must look deep into dark places to find the heart of the problem. Is it player development at youth levels and within the grass roots programs? Is it coaching techniques and the evolution of the game leveling the playing field? Is it player recruitment and quality of International leagues improving football all over the World as sports and business continue to mesh? Or could it be something as over looked as the fragile egos of men with the weight of their Nation troubling their shoulders and smothering their true potential?
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