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Has the footballer forgotten the importance of International games?

The midweek game between Montenegro and England was a game that justified an old saying, “Football is a game of two halves”. Coming into the game with immense confidence acquired via an 8-0 win against a team filled with people who are bankers and electricians in the off-season, England let their greatest enemy come back to haunt them – complacency.

Apart from England’s free-fall and the manager’s lacklustre response, do the English players value the internationals any more? Does International football matter any more?

Does international disappointment have a profound impact on these players who believe money is where their loyalty lies?

Steven Gerrard was asked about the match later on in an interview, and he embarrassingly accepted, “We stopped playing”. Would he have said the same thing if Liverpool were to lose to lowly Crawley Town in the finals of the Capital One Cup?

Captaining an English side has never been easy as every statement of yours comes under scrutiny from the media, but there wasn’t even a slight feeling of  disappointment among the English players after the final whistle – they lacked the ‘fire in their belly’. Was Gerrard aware of the implications of this lacklustre performance which could affect their advance into the finals of the most prestigious tournament in the history of the sport? Performances like the one we witnessed against Montenegro have been holding them back from international glory. So many questions, yet all lack a logical answer.

This was another predicament for England in this dismal qualifying campaign that saw them stumble to teams ranked 44, 57 and 24 places below them. Though ranked second in their qualifying group, is it wrong to expect England, a team ranked number 4 in the FIFA rankings, to breeze past Poland, Ukraine and Montenegro?

Dull draws with Ukraine, Poland and now Montenegro showed that England lacked that will to win. In two of those games, away to Poland and recently to Montenegro, they gave away goals, squandering a clear advantage.

Whatever be the reason for this drop – breakdown of resilience, lack of mettle or a shortage of talent, it has added salt to a gaping wound of International conspiracy. It seems victory in the Premier League is the only seething  sense of pride that comes to an English fan, the same ones that have experienced the baptism of fire on many occasions now with the international side.

The Rio Ferdinand issue is also doing the rounds of the papers with England fans chanting during the Montenegro game:-

“Build a bonfire, build a bonfire

Put Rio on the top

Put Anton in the middle

Then burn the f****** lot.”

There are numerous occasions that highlight the fact that players place club before country. Very often, club managers deny their players the chance to represent their country for fear of hankering an injury which could prove pivotal in their quest for domestic success. Isn’t representing your country in an international game in front of your fans the fairy-tale that every footballer wishes for? That’s just the attitude of the football players in recent times, if you were to weigh the pride of representing your nation and earning truckloads of money on a balance, sadly it would tilt towards monetary gain.

Iconic players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are very successful for their respective clubs but where does the passion, the determination and the encouragement go when performing at the International scene?

Recent statistics also reveal that the Barclays Premier League has the lowest number of young English talent among the ranks of the respective teams. The teams aim at winning silverware and ultimately attracting youth from other countries to come and turn their fortunes around. The current Manchester City starting eleven boasts of just two English players; Joe Hart and James Milner. What does that indicate? Attracting foreign players leads to an increase in fan base, ultimately leading to another investment for long term returns. This new circus of investment in the sport has killed the competition and reduced the edge that the game boasts of.

If I were to quote the the chairman of the FA, ” We’ve lost the English footballer”.

One nation in particular has not let the ball drop, and without any shade of hesitation, every football fan alike will point towards the current World Champions and European Champions; Spain. Barcelona are without any doubt the best team of the decade, but what they have done is transferred their excellent form to the international scene, giving their fans both domestic and international pride. Their philosophy is simple. Barcelona’s starting eleven has 9 Spanish internationals with Messi and Dani Alves being the odd ones out. They develop the chemistry at the club level, and transfer it to the international scene; which makes them what they are -unstoppable.

League games are breathtaking, edge of the seat stuff without a doubt! But if the League comes first on your priority list, then I’m sorry to say that we’re heading in the wrong direction.

England failing to win against Montenegro isn’t a worrying sign, sometimes even the sturdiest of teams choke when presented with the opportunity. But players prioritizing the League and turning a blind eye towards Internationals is a wake-up call.

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