Part two of Steve Mitchell’s interview with Brian Glanville begins at USA 1994, with Italian superstar Roberto Baggio at the peak of his powers.
Glanville gives his verdict on “Il Divin Codino”, on France winning on home soil, whether Germany is now the model for all countries to follow, and why he fears for the future at international level.
SM: For Cruyff in ‘74, read Roberto Baggio in ‘94, and another player who deserved to be a World Cup winner. Where would you place “Il Divin Codino” in a list of Italian greats?
BG: I’d put him very high up indeed. It was a real pity in the final against Brazil that he missed the penalty, as did Franco Baresi. In the build up to that game, both players were reported to be unavailable because of injury.
That Italian side had played so well to get to the final and Baggio had been inspirational despite never being 100 per-cent fit. It was such a shame how the tournament ended for him, he was a wonderful player.Embed from Getty Images
SM: France 1998 and a nation comes of age. How important do you feel the home side’s win was in uniting a country dogged by racial tension?
BG: I’m not sure I’d agree in saying their victory united a country, but I thought they did really well to win the tournament. They took their chances in the final (against Brazil) but of course, that match will forever be associated with what happened to Ronaldo.
I’m afraid that story overshadowed the whole final because we were getting all sorts of reports in the press box, that he’d had some sort of seizure. It was extraordinary and even more so when he then appeared in the starting XI. It was obvious to everyone that he should not have played.
SM: After the 2002 World Cup and another England campaign which ultimately flattered to deceive, why was the Football Association reluctant to search for a successor to Sven-Goran Eriksson?
BG: There was a lack of objectivity at the Football Association at that time and more to the point, a lack of football intelligence. How else could you describe the events after 2002.
SM: Was the so called “Golden Generation” really that golden, after another poor campaign for England in Germany 2006?
BG: First thing I’ll say is that (David) Beckham was ludicrously overrated. He played on the right-wing, he couldn’t really run, he found it difficult to beat a player. He was like the Big Bertha gun the Germans used in the war. He would lob these crosses and free-kicks into the penalty area and they were very successful indeed.Embed from Getty Images
The whole business of (Frank) Lampard and (Steven) Gerrard was never properly worked out. They wanted to play the same role in midfield and there wasn’t room for both of them. Eriksson then inexplicably played Gerrard out on the left wing, when he was a right-footed player. It was a fatuous compromise.
The England hierarchy never really got to grips with any of that.
SM: I’ll now go back to an earlier question in regards to Spain’s win in South Africa 2010; where would you rank Del Bosque’s team alongside Zagallo’s Brazil and Michels’ Holland?
BG: They were a very good team but I wouldn’t put them on a par with that Brazil team in 1970 or either of the Dutch teams from ‘74 or ‘78, the two total football teams. That’s not to say they weren’t a good side though.
SM: After their win in 2014, has Germany now set the benchmark for international football in the way a squad has to be constructed, going back to basics and bringing players through from junior to senior level?
BG: Well it certainly worked for the Germans and in some respects the French too. After their home tournament in 2006, I thought they looked very ordinary and I thought the same in South Africa, but yes, they had the courage to strip down to the bare bones and start again with a very young squad.Embed from Getty Images
Whether that would work for us I really don’t know. We still have nothing to match the academies in Germany or like Clairefontaine in France.
I do however, think that England has a very good young team at the moment but I’m not at all convinced about the manager.
SM: You’ve always been critical of the Premier League since its inception in 1992; do you think it has had a negative impact on the national side?
BG: Back when it was formed I called it the greed is good league and I still feel that. They squeeze so much money out of the game and the Football Association allows them to do so. The FA’s remit was to look after football at all levels and it’s almost been run like a militia.
I don’t think it’s been good for the game at all, because they’ve given the overall power to too few clubs, and the enormous influx of overseas players has of course, been to the detriment of good young English players.
SM: Do you fear for the future of the game at international level?
BG: Yes I do. I feel the outlook is very, very bleak indeed. FIFA are a dreadful organisation, which is constantly betraying the game. For instance we now have (FIFA President Gianni) Infantino with this absurd idea of expanding the World Cup to 40 teams and taking it to places like Qatar.
In my opinion, the last three World Cups have been bought and the competition is on its way out as a valid tournament. I feel the next one in Russia will be the last of any consequence.
SM: Finally, out of the World Cups that you have covered, do you have a favourite?
BG: Well it has to be England…because we won it!
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