Formations do not win football matches. Many have become obsessed with systems and structures in recent years but the European Championships have shown that a good team will beat an over structured side.
This has been the tournament for the underdog.
England once again failed miserably and one has to wonder who now will be prepared to take on the poisoned chalice of head coach. There will always be someone as the pay and the kudos attached to being a National coach will set someone up for life.
Iceland were the team to beat the mighty millionaires of England, a team as it has been well publicised coached by a part-timer.
England at the time seemed pleased that they had drawn Iceland rather than the mighty but underachieving Portugal. Interestingly Iceland were ecstatic as English football was the first league broadcast in their country, so had a massive impact on the game’s development. This would be the test of where they really were in terms of development. Ironically the coaching staff praised the influence of Roy Hodgson, England’s boss in France, for laying the foundations of their success.
Iceland’s population compared to England’s has been made a bis issue, 325,000 people against 53million. As has the cost of the players UKL20million compared to UKL190million. In Iceland there is a 1 in 2000 chance of gaining a professional contract in England a 1 in 360,000.
Wales too is a microcosm when compared to the wealth of talent available to England. In fact Wales has a population of just over 3million. Yet Wales and Iceland both have shown what impact passion and pride can have. Teams who take a pride in wearing their national colours and will use every single ounce of energy they have to never let down their country, the team or the fans. There are some who say that no player should be paid to represent their country in football anymore, as the players are well rewarded bother clubs and there is merit in such an argument. Yet who would begrudge the Welsh and Icelandic players being paid?
It comes down to performing to expectations. Sadly for England the expectations built up by the media and the fans outweighs the reality of the talent on the pitch. England fell into the same trap of many of the established football nations in the Euros, being afraid to lose, rather than going out to win. So many teams played so cautiously in there opening games that once they had to perform the team did not know how to.
What has happened to teams playing with the belief that if the opposition score one, we will score three? Is the coaches who are afraid to lose and opt to play so defensively in order to protect their jobs? Is it the teams stymied by the weight of expectation? That it is essential to get out of the Pool and into at least the quarter finals?
This year one only had to come third in the pool to make the knockout stages so there was no reason to play so defensively.
There is no doubt that both Wales and Iceland have talented players in their squads but are those players any more talented than those in other squads?
There was a study done a while back as to why Australia was so successful on the international sporting stage. One of the reasons given was that its sports stars were tangible. What the writer meant by this was you see Olympic athletes working in banks and hospitals and various normal every day jobs. The same with former athletes from many other sports. So every day people know who they are where, they live and where they work. In fact many fans will even know them to talk to.
Interestingly both Iceland’s players and Wales players have highlighted a similar situation with their fans. Kari Arnatson said that he probably knew 50% of the Icelandic fans in France. Many of the Welsh players come from small communities and again the tight-knit communities will be steeped in prose that one of their own is on the World stage, and the players have been well aware of this fact.
Is it in fact that tangibility, and the feeling of not wanting to let people you know down that has been the difference between the achievers and the high paid underachievers, who lock themselves away from the public and even when they do go out are chauffeur-driven, park on double yellow lines to go and buy a newspaper rather than park legally like normal people, and even when they do go out are “protected” from the man on the street?
There is no definitive answer, but there is no doubt that the Euros have been enlightened by the smaller nations achievements and the spirit in which they play the game. Wales are through to the semi finals, can Iceland beat France and join them? Its a big ask but it would be great for the game if they could.
No one thought Leicester City could win the Premier League, and as we keep being told Iceland is the same size, so why not? Once again their success was built on a collective effort, and a great team spirit. Iceland has that so no one should underestimate the possibility of an upset.
Maybe, just maybe, the days of teams playing with pride and passion and overcoming the big names with higher pay packets and better everything are coming back. Where honest hardworking teams that play as one can upset a team of individuals.