Leading article: Fantasy football

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The Independent Online

There is plenty of scope, in the protracted analysis of England's ignominious exit from the World Cup, for blaming the coach, for indeed some of Fabio Capello's decisions in the final match were distinctly eccentric. But what about the players? The post-match interviews were collectively delusional. That senior members of the squad could insist that they played well, controlled the game or gave evidence that they deserved to be lauded as among the best players in the world, gave new meaning to the term fantasy football. It was not just that their performance was execrable, it was also that they lacked the self-awareness to see it.

Calls for the manager to go miss the point in the same way. There are hard questions to be answered about the English game: about the bringing-on of young players; about whether the international glamour of the Premiership inhibits such development; about the lack of a winter break in the English season which creates an ingrained cumulative tiredness; about whether national football is sufficiently prioritised to enable top players to play enough together to become a top team.

Whoever prepares England for the next major tournament – whether that is Mr Capello or someone else – has some profound structural questions to address.

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