According to Greg Dyke England are on track to win the World Cup in 2022 which means we don’t have to start organising street parties to celebrate after the next tournament in Russia in two years. France showed enough at Euro 2016 in their own country to suggest they can be the next world champions. Brazil have finally won the Olympics and the current players will be more mature and experienced and capable of being just the second South American team to win the World Cup in Europe.
Without wishing to be dogmatic but I will the World Cup should not be held in Russia. Even on the basis of question marks about human rights and discrimination against minorities a major global sporting event is not a good fit. Systematic doping of athletes only deepens the unsuitability of a country to welcome football teams from another 31 nations in what is supposed to be a celebration.
There were a lot of things not right with the Rio Olympics and the financial problems faced by the Paralympics are unacceptable but once the Games began there were many joyous moments and not only for Team GB. Sport was still the winner but a World Cup in Russia, earned in dubious circumstances, may sink in an atmosphere of propaganda and the feeling that bad diplomacy and not football will be the winner.
The objectives of the England national team are listed at the National Football Museum in Manchester. They include being competitive in tournaments and winning the next but one World Cup. Dyke is the former chairman of the FA and the man behind the wish list and now looks quite foolish after the debacle of Roy Hodgson and Iceland. Sam Allardyce is not under pressure to win the 2018 World Cup which looks like being Wayne Rooney’s last tournament as long as England qualify.
England will only perform well in tournaments every two years when there is a higher proportion of players eligible to play for them in the Premier League. On the opening day of the new season only about 30% of starters could be selected by Big Sam. Foreign owners have no vested interest in how England play so there is not a hope that the Premier League will be reduced to 18 teams to free up four match days. The league is dominated by foreign talent which is detrimental to the national team.
The problems with England run much deeper than the amount of football played in the domestic and European competitions. France can win the next World Cup with a squad consisting of key players plying their trade in England, Spain and Italy. The owners of Manchester United will not tolerate Paul Pogba appearing fewer times but he could still be the best player in Russia in two years time.
At the time of writing on Transfer Deadline Day Dimitri Payet is still a West Ham player and Antoine Griezmann is on the books of Atletico Madrid. In two summers French players will be no less drained than their English counterparts but will probably make a better fist of winning the World Cup. On paper England have a good team but football is played on grass and the old failings are likely to emerge so I’d rather be backing our friends from across the Channel to lift the trophy in Moscow.
In 1958 Brazil won the World Cup in Sweden and are still the only team from South America to win the tournament in Europe. The pressure of winning their World Cup in 2014 was too much and Brazil totally capitulated against Germany in the semi-finals. The 7-1 defeat was a disaster but there was retribution at the Olympics. Neymar converted the most high-pressure penalty to clinch the gold medal for his team in their own back yard. This generation can grow and prosper over the next two years and be competitive in the World Cup.
Austria and Poland were the underachievers of Euro 2016 (as well as Roy’s boys) while Portugal, Wales and of course Iceland played above themselves. Of that quintet of teams Poland are best equipped to make an impact in the next major football tournament. For England all roads lead to the deserts of Qatar so Sam has a free pass in two years when France can win the World Cup for the second time.
Have a fantastic weekend!