‘We’re 15 years be­hind’

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

UN­LIKELY as it seems, ac­cord­ing to FIFA, Eng­land are only two world rank­ing places be­low Spain. Gareth South­gate, more real­is­ti­cally, puts the gap at closer to 15 years.

In his mind, de­spite their dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance un­der the re­tir­ing Vin­cente Del Bosque in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in the sum­mer, Spain re­main the bench­mark for Euro­pean foot­ball.

More­over, the ap­point­ment from within of a de­vel­op­ment man in Julen Lopetegui should be the model for other teams, in the not en­tirely un­bi­ased mind of Eng­land’s in­terim boss.

So South­gate does not see Eng­land as “be­low” teams like Spain and Ger­many, more “be­hind” them.

Mere se­man­tics per­haps, but at least it is a sign he be­lieves his side are head­ing along the same road that leads to the very top of the game.

“Over the last few years, Ger­many would be the best team in Europe but Spain would def­i­nitely be up there,” he said.

“In the sum­mer they ob­vi­ously didn’t pro­duce the level they wanted but hav­ing watched their matches since then, they seem to be press­ing well again, they seem to have a sys­tem that ev­ery­body is com­fort­able with – two sys­tems that ev­ery­one is com­fort­able with!

“They have a pro­ject that has been in place for 15 years plus in choos­ing Julen Lopetegui be­cause of his work with the ju­nior teams.

“Very lit­tle has changed in the way of play­ing in that pe­riod of time. The dif­fi­culty comes in stop­ping it! Un­til we de­velop as a team, we are play­ing against teams who are fur­ther ad­vanced in their way of play­ing. That’s the chal­lenge. That’s why those games are tougher.

“I don’t think it’s the case of the oc­ca­sion, or freez­ing be­cause they’re big teams, it’s be­cause the chal­lenge is harder against bet­ter play­ers.” – The In­de­pen­dent

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