by “Ifreke Inyang
England will square up against Spain in a friendly match at the Wembley stadium tomorrow. Once again, the Spaniards would emerge victorious. It is really that predictable. However, the last time they both met in a game the story was different. It was the European Championships in 1996, England managed to eliminate Spain on penalties.
Sometime in the last five years or so, the tables flipped again. Spain has not only made giant strides ahead of England, they have also conquered Europe and the world. Quite frankly, Spain has become box office. Armstrong, a popular sports analyst in Spain who also played in La Liga sought to explain what really changed the Spanish fortune. “The mentality has changed. They believe in each other and they believe in what they’re doing. They pass and move and work the ball. I regularly watch games where Barcelona and Real Madrid have close to 70 per cent possession, home or away.”
He continued: “They have put a lot of effort into their coaching over the last 15 years. They have three times as many coaches as we have in the UK and regulations about release allow the Spanish kids to get more coaching. They practice with Size 3 balls when they are six. By the age of 12, they are made tactically aware of their positions and responsibilities on the pitch. If you’re the winger, you must learn to understand the movement of the centre forward, the central midfielders and the full back.”
“Until England sets up similar structures with Spain, the result whenever they meet, will always be inevitable.”
That kind of football education is missing in England. The most effective academies there are owned and run by Arsenal, West Ham and perhaps, Aston Villa. When it comes to attacking football with a lot of intricate passing that reminds you of Barcelona and Spain, only Arsenal comes closest. The problem however is that Arsene Wenger is not interested in recruiting young players who are English. He has famously reiterated time and time again that he doesn’t respect passports but talent. Little wonder the few Englishmen he has at the club like Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs have been hailed as the future of England.
Walcott was on hand to offer unsolicited advice to Fabio Capello, his coach this week when he said: “Spain don’t look to get it out wide and fire crosses in, they like to go through the centre and play interchanges. But I think England is very strong through the middle, so hopefully they’ll find it tough,” he explained. “If they go wide, we’ve got great full-backs and I think if I went through the entire list of individuals for England we’ve got great players across the board. So I’m hoping they’re going to find it tough to get around us.”
I beg to differ Mr. Walcott!
In my opinion, the only English player that would conveniently walk into the Spanish first eleven is Wayne Rooney. Jack Wilshere might come close but not even his former captain, Cesc Fabregas, would get in. Spain is blessed with a lot of amazing midfielders like Andreas Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Juan Mata, David Silva just to name a few. Most of them went through the Barcelona Academy at La Masia and had learnt the basics from a very young age.
Until England sets up similar structures and begin to catch up with Spain, the result whenever they meet, will always be inevitable.