Following the England football teams (it appears) early exit from the FIFA2014 World Cup in Brazil after their 2-1 defeat to Uruguay; the usual inquest is taking place. Already the media are questioning the commitment of the players, and in some quarters even asking for the manager to be relieved of his duties. But what is the reason why England appear to be on their way out of the tournament? In the two games so far England have played well in parts and contributed significantly to the quality of the contests, but in both cases ended up on the losing side. In the last 12 hours specifically, and more generally over the last 4 days, I have heard of the players’ ability to make key decisions under pressure as being crucial.
Alongside this decision-making under pressure it has been suggested that the players have suffered from lapses in concentration, have made silly errors and have not executed their skills as effectively as possible. While all this is true I can’t help believe that the answer is not so psychological, and is in a sense, a lot more straight–forward.
As a sport and performance psychologist you might expect a psychological answer, but while related this view is not necessarily so. I believe that England lost both games because the team is simply not good enough (yet). The players in the team are talented, and have potential, but do not have the required levels of consistency yet to eradicate the highlighted errors from their play. A good decision is only a good decision if you can execute it effectively. I believe that while the players knew what they were trying to do them simply did not have the consistency of execution to implement those actions. On many occasions England players got into good positions (good decision) but failed to execute effectively (changes the decision into a poor decision when you consider more effective alternatives such as an easy pass).
This reflects, in the main, the youthful and relatively inexperienced nature of the team at this level of performance. The players need to further hone their ability to execute their skills at this higher level (a reduction in the acceptable margin for error) to ensure they can produce consistent levels of performance in the future. Assuming the majority of the team continue to form the basis of the England team for the forthcoming European Championships qualifying campaign there is no reason why these players can’t further enhance the consistency in their execution of the decisions they make. This in turn should enable higher, more consistent levels of performance in the future.
It is always disappointing to lose, and to get knocked out of major championships. But for the first time in a long time the future for England genuinely looks positive. Simply because this team is not the finished article and the players have not developed fully yet. The potential is there, which is more than can be said of England teams in major tournaments in recent memory.