England’s ‘tired’ excuse for World Cup elimination may not exactly add up, AP review finds

By Mia Snyman, AP
Saturday, July 3, 2010

England’s excuse for WCup exit may not add up

JOHANNESBURG — Fabio Capello’s excuse that his England players were too tired at the World Cup may not exactly add up.

After England was eliminated from the tournament in South Africa in the round of 16, the England coach blamed a long season for his players’ sluggishness on the field.

“We probably arrived a little bit tired at the end of the season,” Capello said following the 4-1 loss to Germany.

But after researching the number of minutes played last season in competitive club matches, The Associated Press found that England’s top players had little to complain about in relation to their opponents.

Chelsea teammates Frank Lampard and John Terry certainly played a lot before pulling on their England shirts, with Lampard logging 4,576 minutes and Terry on the field for 4,545 since their season started on Aug. 9, 2009.

But Brazil defender Maicon played 4,865 minutes for Inter Milan, and club and international teammate Lucio played 4,522. Although Brazil was eliminated from the World Cup on Friday, the team did one better than England by reaching the quarterfinals.

In contrast, England defender Ashley Cole played 2,876 minutes for Chelsea, but he was out for part of the season with an injury.

Another England midfielder, Steven Gerrard, played 4,095 minutes with Liverpool, but that was less than Germany midfielder Thomas Mueller’s 4,113 with Bayern Munich and Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez’s 4,098 with Barcelona.

Both Germany and Spain are still in the tournament.

Capello, however, has said that the German team may be doing better because the players are better rested over the winter. Germany had a 3½-week break over the winter holidays last season, while the Premier League tends to play more games than usual in a short period, including a full schedule on Boxing Day.

The Netherlands, Spain and Italy also take a break around the Christmas holiday, and the Dutch national team became the first to reach the World Cup semifinals by beating Brazil 2-1 on Friday.

“The reason is that it’s very important to recover the force,” Capello said. “But it’s not my job to decide the calendar.”

Among forwards at the World Cup, England striker Wayne Rooney played 3,617 minutes for Manchester United, while Argentina striker Carlos Tevez played 3,330 for Manchester City — a difference that is about the equivalent of three matches.

Argentina forward Lionel Messi, however, played 4,205 minutes for Barcelona and has been a key player in his team’s run to the quarterfinals.

Former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, who led the team to two World Cup quarterfinals, also used to complain that the Premier League season was too long and a contributor to the national team’s exits from major tournaments.

When he was still the coach, he campaigned for a winter break.

“To have a winter break, I think those things would be very important for the players but I don’t know how far away we are from that,” Eriksson said after England’s elimination at the 2002 World Cup. “We play a lot of football in England. … The winter break is very important.”

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