Vialli: England are too soft to cope with major tournaments

Joe Williams

Former Italy striker Gianluca Vialli has told England to show more humility heading into next summer’s World Cup.

Vialli believes England are hampered by unrealistic expectations and says this country’s players are too soft to cope with the pressure of international tournaments.

England have not reached the semi-finals of a major competition since Euro 96 and failed even to make it out of the groups at the last World Cup in Brazil.

Vialli played 59 times for Italy, to whom Roy Hodgson’s side lost their opening game four years ago, and he believes England can be guilty of arrogance.

“I’ve been living in London for 20 years and I think it wouldn’t be a bad thing for a change if you went into an international competition not thinking that you are going to winning it hands down,” Vialli said.

“Especially the fans, that creates too many expectations. Going into a competition with a bit more humility and lower expectations might help.

“I’m just saying, it might help the players and the manager to perform better and with that get better results.”

Even with modest expectations at the European Championships last year, England buckled in the last 16 where they endured a humiliating defeat to Iceland.

Vialli says English players are mollycoddled by fans in the Premier League.

“England players are not trained to deal with pressure,” Vialli said. “In Italy, you lose a game, you can’t walk out of the stadium without having a police escort.

“You lose a game in England and you get out and, as long as you’ve done your best, you are asked to sign autographs and you see the kids and you see everybody and nothing happens.

“Pressure is a combination of expectations, scrutiny and consequences. If the consequences are grave, then you feel more pressure and if you feel more pressure you learn how to cope with that.”

Pressure has also circled Vialli’s former club Chelsea in recent weeks although manager Antonio Conte has insisted he does not fear the sack.

Chelsea came from behind to beat Watford on Saturday for their first win in four matches but the champions already trail Manchester City by nine points in the league.

Vialli says the additional demand of the Champions League this season is taking its toll.

“Without a doubt, Chelsea had a massive advantage last season when they had a week to prepare, now they place twice a week, it’s almost a different sport,” Vialli said.

“But I’ve spoken to some of the biggest Italian football legends. They had managers who were great and they told me Antonio is on a different level. That is a massive compliment.”