Tender Glories Doth Not World Champions Make

July 1, 2010

Some say that the English footballing nation can take heart from the fact that in the under-17 age bracket, its youngsters recently captured the European Championship. The BBC’s Phil McNulty even picks out one of the team members, Connor Wickham, as a particularly bright talent, a new Rooney if you will.

But if the past is any guide, things are much harder to predict. Success at early ages doesn’t simply translate into success later on – witness the failure of Portugal’s undeniably talented “golden generation” to win anything, even though most of their players had been together from their teenage years.

In 2001, the Under-17 World Cup was won by a French side which was tipped to move onto far brighter things. It’s attack was particularly praiseworthy, yet youngsters Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama-Pongolle have struggled to develop (both taken perhaps unwisely into a decaying Liverpool organisation). Only Hassan Yebda has gone onto relative success, albeit as an Algerian international.

As for the beaten finalists Nigeria, not one of their team plays top level football, anywhere. They have all disappeared from the game, despite huge early promise.

But one side knocked out in the group stages, pipped to a knockout spot by Burkina Faso, was a Spanish side which included Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres, while many of the squad have gone onto decent club careers.

Another team which France overpowered was an Argentina team with Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, ex Barcelona player Maxi Lopez and Pablo Zabaleta.

So don’t look too closely at glories achieved at such a tender age.

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