JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes a fear of failure and the absolute necessity of getting through the first round has contributed to the poor form of the leading European teams at the World Cup.
England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy have all failed to live up to expectations so far but Wenger said Saturday the majority of them would qualify for the second round and then they would start to play properly.
The studious-looking, dapper Frenchman, who has worked in England for 14 years, was speaking at a reception hosted by Prince William, president of the English FA, and took time away from the canapes to review the opening week of the tournament.
Although many of the favourites have struggled so far, Wenger said: “The biggest teams who have the highest level of expectation cannot express that talent yet.
“One reason is caution, fear of failure, response to huge demands. These teams will just glide through though, most of them, then you will see them really play.
“The lower (ranked) teams have done quite well and one of the things at the World Cup now is that there are no real weak teams any more who get beaten 10-0.”
“Basically, the big teams with high expectations play these first round games just to get through. I don’t think (they play that way) consciously but more out of fear of failure.
“There are so many demands in the modern game, too much pressure, too many expectations and sometimes too much inhibition.”
France, who have reeled from one crisis to another culminating in striker Nicolas Anelka being kicked out of their squad Saturday while England, who played abysmally against Algeria Friday and could also fail to reach the second round, are two teams close to Wenger’s heart.
England are on just two points after their opening Group C matches while France have picked up only one point in Group A.
“England came here with an expectation from everybody to win the World Cup. It’s not easy to deal with that. They want so much to do well that they think they cannot fail.”
He did not give France much hope of success, saying:
“We are down because we can’t win games. I believe that we had a low level of confidence going into the tournament.
“It did not help that we had three negative results before even coming into the World Cup.”
He added that Mexico had impressed him, explaining: “The Mexican team have done extremely well. They combine style and efficiency, which is what I like.
“Even at 1-0 up against France, Mexico continued to play for the second goal and go forward. They had a very positive attitude.”
Writing by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris
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