Dyke plays down England's 2014 hopes as debate heats up

By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - No-one believes England have a realistic chance of winning the World Cup in Brazil next year, Greg Dyke, the new head of the English FA said on Thursday.

A day after warning that England will have little chance of competing seriously for honours in future unless more English players start playing in the Premier League, Dyke told the BBC: "It doesn't mean we can't do well in Brazil as long as we qualify.

"But I don't think anyone realistically thinks we are going to win the World Cup in Brazil."

Dyke painted a potentially bleak future for the country's national team on Wednesday which he said could only be averted if the spiralling influence of foreign players in the Premier League is curtailed.

At the same time he challenged England to win the World Cup in 2022 and to reach at least the semi-finals of Euro 2020.

England are far from assured of reaching next year's finals in Brazil, although they are in a decent enough position to qualify and will go top of their group if they beat Moldova as expected at Wembley on Friday.

They then face Ukraine in Kiev next Tuesday when another victory would significantly boost their chances.

Dyke said on Thursday he was confident England would qualify for the finals, telling the BBC: "I asked a bunch of journalists what would be seen as doing well in Brazil, and the consensus was, if we reach the quarter-finals we'll do very well indeed.

"That's not to say we can't win. But lets not kid oursevles. It's pretty hard to win in Latin America anyway for a European side. We're certainly not going to go there as odds on -favourites that's for sure."

In his speech on Wednesday, Dyke was anxious not to accuse the Premier League of being the agent of England's bleak international future.

But just about everything he said implied he thought it was.

He said he was merely describing how the soccer landscape had changed in England since the influx of foreign players began after the formation of the cash-rich Premier in 1992-93.

BIG FIVE

One of the great ironies of the debate is that in the early 1990s Dyke was the chief executive of London Weekend Television and called together the chairmen of the then "Big Five" clubs - Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur - to discuss a far more lucrative TV deal if the top clubs broke away from the Football League.

That eventually happened with the Premier League starting in 1992, but Dyke admitted on Wednesday that no-one could then see it would become the most successful and richest league in the world - or the downside that has affected the English game.

In 1992-93 72 per cent of the players appearing in Premier League matches were English. Last season that figure had dropped to 32 per cent.

Dyke said: "The issue, quite simply, is this. In the future it's quite possible we won't have enough players qualified to play for England who are playing regularly at the highest level in this country or elsewhere in the world.

"As a result, it could well mean England's teams are unable to compete seriously on the world stage."

"What none of us could have foreseen (in 1992) was because of the very success of the Premier League we would end up with a league largely owned by foreign owners, managed by foreign managers and played by foreign players."

TANKER TURNING

He said things had to change to give England any chance of ending decades of under-achievement at international level.

"English football is a tanker that needs turning," he said announcing he was setting up and chairing an FA commission to investigate change.

His comments were met with a wide-range of opinions in the media on Thursday.

The Times supported his stance, saying "Finally the FA has a leader with the courage to set the agenda" adding: "For years someone at the FA has needed to stand up and say what Greg Dyke said yesterday."

The Sun also took a swipe at "arrogant Richard Scudamore" the chief executive of the Premier League.

"Until (he) removes his head from the sand there is little or no hope," it wrote.

The Sun continued: "In July Scudamore called suggestions the Premier League was hindering the national team's progress 'absolute nonsense'

"The only nonsense came from his own lips. It is this sort of arrogant, self-serving denial of the obvious that has so damaged England."

Dyke's commission will meet later this month and report back early next year.

"We will come up with a set of ideas," Dyke told the BBC, "The hardest bit is, how do you then implement them?" (Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Martyn Herman)

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