No Mental Block, England "Weren't Good Enough" In The Past, Says David James
Former England goalkeeper David James says the Three Lions are doing well at major competitions not because they have gotten over a "mental block", but because the standard of football has improved.
Having made it to the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup after 28 years in Russia in 2018 and reached the final of the European Championship this summer, England will head into the new year in 2022 with serious hopes of finally ending a World Cup title drought that stretches back to 1966. The Gareth Southgate-managed side missed out on a maiden European Championship triumph by the tiniest of margins earlier this year after losing in a tight penalty shootout to Italy. According to former England goalkeeper David James, the Three Lions are doing well at major competitions not because they have gotten over a "mental block", but because the standard of football has improved.
"I think that English football goes hand in hand with what you see in the Champions League. The standard of domestic football in England -- essentially the supply chain for the national team, bar one or two players who have been playing abroad -- has got better. So, naturally, the standard of England (in) international football has got better," James said in a virtual media interaction.
"We failed because weren't good enough, as opposed to having a mental block. We are actually getting to a final, as we did in the Euros, because we are better than the opposition. Again, it might be down to the occasional penalty shootout but it's a definite progression. With the trajectory of the team, there's no reason why England shouldn't be looking at Qatar in 2022 as an opportunity to win the World Cup," he added.
On Liverpool and Man United's UCL hopes
James also weighed in on the ongoing Champions League campaign, saying that his former club Liverpool have the edge over Inter Milan in their round of 16 tie despite the Italian champions' ongoing unbeaten run.
"Liverpool's Champions League campaign was another historic moment in Champions League football for English clubs - 100% record. There was a slight caveat to that - at times, they struggled. Ultimately, winning every game was enough, irrespective of how they did it. I think the telling performance was against AC Milan, where, Italy's best team at the time, were playing a Liverpool side with many changes and Liverpool absolutely dominated the game. And it wasn't just a gulf in class between two teams, it was a gulf in class between two leagues," James elaborated.
"Now that Inter are top of the league, I mean they are on a seven-game winning streak, six clean sheets in a row, they are putting up, quite literally, a strong defence to the Liverpool-will-walk-all-over-them argument. It will be a fantastic game of football.
"I just think that Liverpool's dominance, scoring goals is a key factor. It all goes back to how the club is set up. Everything seems to be in tune: players called up to the squad, irrespective of whether they are young or coming back to fitness, they seem to fit straight in. Whatever is happening at Liverpool with regards to preparation at the moment, everything seems to be working right. And there is no reason to suggest that Jurgen (Klopp) can't keep that going through the knockout stages, and more importantly, against Inter," he explained.
Asked about how he expects Manchester United to fare under interim manager Ralf Rangnick, James said, "The United squad is fantastic. The addition of (Cristiano) Ronaldo was the cherry on top of the cake. The potential was there, that Manchester United would be challenging for the EPL and obviously progressing through the Champions League. And I thought Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer) would be the guy to do that.
"Ralf Rangnick has a pedigree of being able to get teams play better. He doesn't have a history of major successes, it has to be said. But at the same time, perhaps he has never had a squad as good as Manchester United. So, qualification for the Champions League is something they should be able to attain.
"When it comes to actually winning the Champions League, again, with the squad, the capabilities of Manchester United, it's a handful of games required to win the Champions League; so you get your team playing properly, then there's no reason why they can't win the Champions League. Of course, there are other teams and that could be the reason for them not winning it. But Ralf Rangnick has all the ingredients for a successful season."