The euro 2016 qualifyiers are going to start in a week’s time. This series will analyze the prospects of all the major football playing nations for the Euro 2016. We’ll start with England and then move on to France, Spain, Italy and Holland. We feel no need to discuss the German prospects, we know they’re going to win it in any case.
Just joking, this is an equal opportunity blog, whether champion or not, every big European team will be analyzed.
Big Leagues, Strong National Teams and Euro 2016
Before having a look at the prospects of England Football Team for the Euro 2016 we need to understand the current state of affairs in the Barclay’s Premier League. It must be noted that players from big football nations (with the notable exception of France)* such as Spain, Italy, Germany etc. play in their own countries and usually it’s the strength of their respective leagues which is an indicator of the national team strength.
English Players Play In England
Like Spain, Italy and Germany, almost all good English players play in English clubs. Very few English players have traditionally played outside England in their prime. David Beckham and Michael Owen did play for Real Madrid and currently Ashley Cole is plying his trade in Italy, but both Owen and Beckham were a shadow of their former selves while playing abroad and are rather the exception which confirms the general consensus. Ashley Cole is in his early thirties and given the fast pace of the English game, no top tier English club would have retained his services hence his move to a rather leisurely paced football league i.e. Serie A.
For example, the English squad for the recently concluded 2014 World Cup did not even have one player who played outside Britain. In fact all the English players played for the English clubs except the reserve goalkeeper Fraser Foster who played in Scotland. Not exactly an exotic, foreign destination.
The only English player of note playing outside England and good enough to be selected for the English squad was Owen Hargreaves. But then Hargreaves never was your typical English player and never passed through the English system. Born in Canada to British parents, he played for Calgary Foothills as a youth player and then joined Bayern Munich after passing through their youth system. He remains the only player to play for England without having ever lived in England.
The Global Nature of European League Football
Football is the biggest spectator sport in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. It must however be noted that the buying power of European audiences is much higher than that of Asian, African and Latin American (with the exception of Japan and South Korea) audiences. This means that the European Leagues/European champions league are the richest football leagues on the planet and attract global talent which makes them more competitive and exciting.
Difference With American Leagues
The only other part of the world where people have a high standard of living and comparable (if not higher) buying power as that of the European nations is the North American continent: precisely speaking Canada and the USA (no disrespect to Mexico but their purchasing power is less than that of the OECD countries).
We’ll not treat US and Canada separately for the comparison between European and North-American Leagues (Dear Canada we know you are a separate country) due to following reasons.
- With the exception of the National Football League (the NFL) all other major spectator sports have a franchise in at least one Canadian city. For example the National Hockey League (the NHL) has franchises in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton. The Major League Baseball (the MLB) and the National Basketball Association (the NBA) have franchises in Toronto and the Major League Soccer (the MLS) has one franchise each in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. This means that although being two different sovereign countries, in the matter of spectator sports, Canada and USA could be considered as a single entity.
- Canada has a population of 33 million while the USA has a population of 325 millions. For a generalized demographic analysis both the countries could be considered as a same entity.
- The purchasing power and relative wealth level for the middle classes in Canada and the USA are roughly the same.
- Even in the case of American Football, where Canada have their own league (the CFL) the administrative and financial rules and regulations governing the league are more or less identical to those found in the US leagues. It could safely be assumed that both these countries follow the same domestic sports model.
*We’ll talk about the state of French football in another article and explain what the term “l’Exception Française” really means.