Euro 2012 qualifying

Bierhoff: England lacked team spirit

March 31, 2011

England have been told they need to rediscover their team spirit if they are to have any hope of emulating Germany.

Oliver Bierhoff plays an important role alongside coach Joachim Low
GettyImagesOliver Bierhoff plays an important role alongside coach Joachim Low

• Capello: Germany are the model

Fabio Capello said this week he hoped England would soon begin to be talked about like the young German side who thrilled at last year's World Cup.

But Oliver Bierhoff, Germany's team manager, highlighted the lack of team spirit in the England camp when the two countries met in South Africa last year and questioned whether Capello was getting through to the players. He also claimed that it helps a national team if the manager is from the same country.

Bierhoff, who oversees the development of the national game in Germany, said at the Soccerex conference in Manchester: "I think the most important thing [last year] if you are looking on the pitch - and our players mentioned this - there was not really big communication and atmosphere and team spirit in this English team.

"Capello is a famous coach and he has experience, but I don't know if he gets through to his players. You could see in the World Cup there were certain groups - also France - that were divided.''

Germany won the match 4-1, England's heaviest defeat in World Cup history, although Capello's side were denied another goal when the referee did not see that Frank Lampard's shot had clearly crossed the line.

Germany finished third in the tournament after being beaten in the semi-finals by Spain, and Bierhoff said: "We had a very strong team spirit and a lot of discipline to do what the coaches asked of us - and also a good goal-line!

"England had quality players but you could see they weren't communicating any more, they didn't find the power in themselves and this was the biggest difference.''

Bierhoff played against England in the Euro 96 semi-final at Wembley and said their team spirit in 2010 was completely different.

"In this tournament it seemed the worst. In 1996 they were very motivated and staying together,'' he added, before insisting it is better to have a national team coach from the same country.

"For sure it helps, because then he is thinking more about what is going on in the country and is not seeing himself like a project manager who is coming for five days to coach the team but is thinking more about what is going on in the federation.''

Bierhoff can see England narrowing the gap with the Germans, who are reaping the dividends of a revolutionary youth programme begun after their dismal Euro 2000 campaign.

He said: "The players are becoming closer in style because you now have a lot of foreign players in every club and foreign coaches, it's not as it was before.

"I can see the difference in our players from 2006 to 2010, the young players coming now are better technically educated, more used to the media, physically much better.

"In 2006 we still had problems with a lack of speed and technical issues. With these young players you can see they have had a good education in the clubs' technical centres, I don't know how it is in England.''

Some 52% of players in the Bundesliga have come up through clubs' youth centres and Bierhoff said there was now real competition for places for the national side.

He and his fellow coaches have also introduced a set of rules at all age levels designed to boost team bonding and stop the players becoming "spoilt brats''.

"After training they would just come in and throw their dirty shirts and socks and shorts down and leave it for the kitman to tidy up,'' he said. "Now they do it themselves. They turn their shirts inside out, they put all the socks and shorts together.

"We needed to change the atmosphere after Euro 2004. It had seemed to the people that the players didn't want to play for the team, that it was not fun. But in Germany the national team is an icon, it's the property of the people so we needed the players to be able to bond together.

"We helped them develop responsibilities to help them grow as people because we wanted them to respect not only their fellow players but the staff who worked with them. We did not want them to behave like spoilt brats.''