Why England’s defeat to Italy was down to branding
Football managers, pundits and fans often talk about a ‘brand of football’. When they say this, they’re not talking about the merits of a size 5 Adidas Tango over a Mitre Sensation; they’re talking about the way a team plays the game.
The most recognisable brand of football right now is Spain’s possession football. This infinitely patient, technically proficient approach to the game is considered boring by some, but has won them the last two major tournaments.
England’s brand of football is rather less successful.
England’s brand of football
Branding is about how you portray yourself. Everybody and everything that represents you has an impact on how others perceive your brand. This is true whether we’re talking about the branding of a company or the branding of the nation’s football team.
If we think about English footballers, certain characteristics quickly come to mind. Listen to any pundit talk about England for long enough and certain words are bound to crop up. These words give us a strong indication of the way in which we expect England’s footballers to represent the nation.
You can easily add to this list, but you get the gist. These are the qualities we look for in our footballers because these are qualities we like to think of as being inherently ‘English’.
The right brand?
But are these the right qualities? Do they actually help England win football matches?
Passion, commitment and heart are certainly attributes, but do they come at a price? Commitment is worthwhile in itself, but how does it tally with the economy of movement which keeps players fresher towards the end of a game? Passion can bring urgency, but how can a sense of urgency go hand-in-hand with patience and thoughtfulness?
One of the most fascinating aspects of international football is in seeing different approaches to the game – different brands of football – pitted against each other. Unfortunately for the fans, the nation’s brand is tarred with another, more prosaic characteristic: England rarely win a penalty shoot-out.