Football: Vialli says England struggle to handle pressure

Italy's former player Gianluca Vialli poses for a photograph as he arrives for The Best Fifa Football Awards ceremony, on Oct 23, 2017 in London. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Gianluca Vialli has warned that England's record at major tournaments will only improve once their players learn how to handle pressure.

The former Italy striker has spent more than two decades living and working in England, first playing for Chelsea before managing the Blues and Watford.

England have not won a major trophy since lifting the 1966 World Cup on home soil and were dumped out of Euro 2016 by unheralded Iceland.

For all the talk that Premier League players are under scrutiny, Vialli believes it's nothing compared to the pressure faced by footballers in his native Italy.

"I love the Premiership, I think it's the most entertaining league in the world but when it comes to pressure, I think there's more pressure in Italy and therefore you learn how to deal with that," Vialli told reporters prior to the FIFA Best awards in London on Monday.

"You need pressure... I think in England players are not trained to deal with pressure.

"I'll give you an example. 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." England have only reached two major semi-finals since 1968, but expectations often remain high ahead of tournaments.

"I've been living in London for 20 years and I think it wouldn't be a bad thing for a change if you (England) went into an international competition not thinking that you are going to win it hands down," Vialli added.

"Especially the fans, that creates too many expectations."


Meanwhile, Vialli's fellow Italian Antonio Conte has found his position as Chelsea manager being called into question despite leading the London club to the 2016/17 Premier League title.

Last weekend's much-needed 4-2 win over Watford followed back-to-back Premier League defeats by Manchester City and Crystal Palace and a 3-3 home draw with Roma in the Champions League.

Vialli said the speculation was just the way of the modern game.

"It's not crazy, it's what football has become," he explained. "You are hired to get results." Repeatedly producing top-class performances is something Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, on the shortlist for this year's FIFA Best Player award, know all about.

Vialli forecast only age would stop the rivals from continuing to dominate such shortlists as they've done for the best part of a decade.

But 'Fifa Legend' Vialli denied their repeated presence made for boring awards ceremonies.

"When you wake up in the morning and you see the same beautiful face next to you, your wife, you don't get bored do you?," said Vialli.

"As long as they keep performing at this level, it won't be boring."

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