"Defend till death".

I believe that's the motto of the Three Lions each time they play on the football field. Nothing wrong with that. Just that a country with probably the best professional football league in the world doesn't do itself justice on the international stage.

                                                   Terry Butcher. In life it's about giving our all.

England are the only world cup winning team which have never claimed the Euro Cup. They have good players and the best fans in the world. Everything seems like a winning formula but they fail to win each time.

So here's their international records.
  • World Cup 2002- Quarterfinal  (Lost to Brazil 2-1)
  • Euro 2004- Quarterfinal (Lost to Portugal on penalties 6-5)
  • World Cup- Round of 16 (Lost to Portugal on penalties 1-3)
  • Euro 2008 (Let's not talk about this)
  • World Cup 2010 (Lost to Germany 1-4)
  • Euro 2012 (Lost to Italy on penalties 2-4)

                                                                                     Agony. Again. 

It seems like penalties are cursed here. But what's really wrong?

1. The Squad And Manager?

Firstly, it may seem that the manager may be at fault for the team's failure. But is it? 

His role is to pick the best team and motivate them in bad times. Ultimately it is down to the players themselves to write their own success stories. No one likes to fail. Imagine if you're the manager of England, you'll feel the sense of pride running a team of talents and needless to say representing your own country.You wouldn't like to fail. I mean, doesn't everyone loves to succeed? Everyone wants to be a victor in everything they do.

So it's down to the players.There are 2 kinds of footballers out there. The hardworking ones and those with the extraordinary skills. You need both kinds of players in order to win. Pretty much like yin and yang. English fans take pride in each game the national team plays. When the team wins, they party with beer and all. But when England fails to win, the press would be the first ones to pin point the culprits. It seems right for the journalist to do that because they need to sell their stories, but at what cost? 

There are many ways to find faults when a team loses. You could blame the formations or whether the right kind of players were used. But it's very cynical to judge the players on how much they costs (in terms of transfer fees) cause it's not fair. Andy Carroll costs 35 million pounds and you know he's definitely uneasy with the price tag on him. It seems that there's an urgent need to score goals to justify the 35 million price tag which I feel is ridiculous. Though it may seems like an incentive to push him, it's clearly too much.

                                                                   Euro 2004. Penalty Agony. 

Why so expensive?

Relative to other players from different nationalities, English players are rather costly for many reasons.Their price is clearly inflated. 

You could say it's the hype the press presents when a player plays well. Tongues will wag and rumours will spread. It's nice to share a good football game with the entire nation. It'll increase the price of the stock (the player himself), but when it gets out of hand, inflation will be at it's bottleneck level. However, it's not primarily due to the presence of the press.

Instead, the most important reason I feel for the hefty price tags of English players is the influx of foreign players.

The English Premier League is a melting pot of footballers. It has undoubtedly the highest quality as the best talents around the world are there. Well, most of them. So it's good to see that. But what will happen to the English players? The homegrown players whose predecessors were the ones who carried the league to fame and glory.

First thing that comes to mind is that there will be lesser playing time. With lesser playing time, you'll get lesser exposure. With that, there would be less scouting for English players. Cause it's harder for the players to create their own moments since there's too little playing time to begin with. 

You could argue that competition brings out the best players, but at what cost? There is very limited English players in the EPL. However, there are many English players in the lower leagues. That doesn't mean that those playing in the lower league sucks because they're 'not playing at a high level'. That's very myopic to say that. In the first place, the press rarely do in depth coverages of lower tier matches unless there's a major upset over a big club. Other than that, you don't hear much of the players in the lower divisions. 

Hence, there are a few English players who are playing at the top level in their own homegrown league. So when a big team wants to acquire an English player, they have to throw a lot of money cause there are only a handful of them at the EPL. Moreover, big clubs rarely look at the lads at the lower league because there's very little scouting to begin with. Even if they found a rare gem, they would consider many times as compared to a gem found else where outside England. So to put it simply, homegrown talents are stifle

So on economic reasons, English players do not suck and their price tags are not a reflection of how good they are cause it's inflated. In the first place, you can't judge a player based on his price tag.

You can't equate 80 million pounds to Cristiano Ronaldo and say that he is 7 times better than Frank Lampard who costs 12 million pounds. It's clearly not right. 

You could say: "Fernando Torres is a waste of money, I could get more and better players with 50 million pounds".

Look at what money has done to us. Some of us start to equate things or even footballers in monetary values. That is just wrong. 

Some of the world best players costs nothing. Look at Paulo Maldini, Paul Scholes, Raul and Xavi. So judging players based on their transfer fee is rather short sighted. Instead, you need to understand the logic behind a transfer fee. Price is an indication of how badly a club wants him.

                                                                 2006 World Cup. Not again

2. Not Motivated Players?

With their insane weekly salary, footballers are enjoying their lives like a fairytale. Big houses and hefty sports cars. They can prolly sit at their couch for their rest of their lives and still die with a crystal coffin. They're rich. Critics may say they wouldn't give a damn about their weekly club matches, let alone international matches.

But that point is very absurd to begin with. I mean, no matter how rich you are. There can only be 11 men on the pitch. It doesn't mean the richest dudes in the country get to play the match. No. It doesn't work this way. Everytime you stand on the pitch playing your country, I'm sure you'll get butterflies in your stomach when you hear your own national anthem.

 Would you feel proud? You surely would. Would you give it your all? You're damn right you would.

It's easy to sit on the stands and criticize certain players are lazy in hopes of 'trying to help them out'. You need to understand sometimes a player needs time to adjust. Give him some time. It may be days, months or years. Everyone will fit in. Just like how we try to fit in society. All we need is time. You can't say a player sucks cause he takes too long to settle. I mean, it clearly boils down to your patience. Patience is a virtue. And on the other side of the field, everyone is trying their best to fit in a group or society as fast as possible. So if you have a lack of patience, then maybe you could put yourself in the players' boots to know how it feels. All I can say, it ain't easy.

Secondly, it's also easy to criticize the managers on their tactics. Some people loves beautiful football. Some fans just want to win even if it's ugly. At times, where you can't get best of both worlds (It's possible to have a union of both ways), you need to settle for something that works. But you can't whack the manager just like that. Who the hell you think you are? 

If you're given the job of a club of your choice or national team, you think you'll run as good as the current manager? Mind you, it ain't as simple as playing Football Manager 2012

So please be apathetic. Be patient for there can be no team that wins all the time. You can win 5 world cup, but you don't win all the time. You just become a bookie favorite that's all and not forgetting the heavy expectations on your shoulders.

3. Just Pure Bad Luck

Every international tournament comes around once in 4 years. For the last 5 tournaments England participated in, they have finished quarter finalists in 4 of them and crashing out on penalties on 3 occasions. I strongly believe as much as you can try to train for your spot kicks, it's purely down to luck. But that doesn't mean you don't train and throw your scouting reports. Just be normal. Penalty kicks are solely based on luck. 

I remembered watching an university lecture about game theory on penalty kicks. Everything was so detailed in numbers and probabilities. Like what's the odds of the goal keeper saving the shot assuming if he was right handed and the kicker was left legged. There was a graph at the end of it, predicting which is the best way to dive to block the shot. It started to get very complex but it daunted to me that as much as you try to apply a framework, it doesn't work real life. It may be fundamentally correct, but the sole basis of penalty kicks depends on lady luck.

                               Euro 2012. Whoever said third time is a charm is so wrong.

England, being quarter finalists so many times, doesn't mean that they suck. No. I always believe that they'll defend till death. They'll put down their lives to win. On the account of crashing out on penalties, means a couple of things. 

Firstly, England didn't lose. They just lost to lady luck. It's as simple as that.

Imagine if they won the spot kicks? They'll be in the semi finals and maybe the finals. The way England plays, no matter how unsightly it may seems sometimes, they don't lose. Whether they're down to 10 men, they make up for it. (Look back at 2006 World Cup against Portugal). They play like warriors and you can't question their determination to win. Some players may lack the talent. But they make up with their hearts and passion. That is something you have to respect.

So What Now?

I feel that what's important is not about practicing spot kicks, not about the team issues, it is about the press. How ironic as I'm actually writing a football article. But in all honesty, the press should be nicer to the England team. It's okay for journalist and the press to write stories because of economic reasons. They want to sell their stories. And that's perfectly fine.

Everyone loves to read about gossip. It's in our nature. It's alright to fish our scandals revolving footballers. Like how certain players sleep with their teammates' wife, or other funny stories. It's important for the press to dig out such stories on footballers who do wrong cause we need justice in society. Like how the media is doing a good job to combat racism in football, the press should do its part to spread awareness in society by fighting injustice. 

                                                               Don't we love giant killers?

In a good way, the press does a decent job by bringing up success stories like the slaying of big established clubs by the smaller clubs in the FA Cup and League Cup. It's beautiful to read about such articles because they're refreshing. As much as we adore two big titans clubs locking horns, we also love the 'David beats Goliath' moments.

But the notion of hammering of  the players in the press is uncalled for. The players themselves know they had a bad game and want to improve on the next match. So by rubbing salt into their wounds is very sickening. You may think they won't care about their performances since they're filthy rich and all. But you need to understand that their performance is the bedrock of their lives. Hence perhaps you could put yourself in their shoes to see how it feels.

You could also look at your own life as well. Maybe you're a student or a working adult. Imagine if you're having a bad day and someone just made it even worse. You wouldn't like it. Everyone wants to get out of the cul de sac.

I know it's disappointing to see England crash out on major tournaments. You can't solely fault the players as they are giving their all. After all, they're your own countrymen.

It's vital to see the root of the problem. Maybe it could be the press. Maybe it could be down to your patience.

Yes. I agree that it's important to win at all costs. Nothing beats national glory. However, everything in its time needs time to begin with. 

Trust me when I say that life is long. With a strong foundation of home grown players along with supportive fan base which is already in place, eventually everything will work out. Just stop being harsh on the lads playing on the field.