London - England stepped up its World Cup agonizing Sunday with Premier League manager Harry Redknapp claiming some young players had sought to avoid international duty as he raised doubts over their commitment.
England's calamitous early exit from the tournament has caused a bitter new round of soul-searching by football leaders and politicians over the state of the national game.
Queens Park Rangers boss Redknapp, once a candidate for the England job now held by Roy Hodgson, weighed in by saying too many young players seek to escape national duty.
“There are too many pull-outs, it seems to be everyone has got an excuse,” he told BBC radio.
“And I can tell you when I was at Tottenham, when full internationals came around, there were two or three players who did not want to play for England,” said Redknapp.
“They would come to me 10 days before the game and say, 'Gaffer, get me out of that game, I don't want to play in that game'.
“That was how it was. I'd say, 'you're playing for your country, you should want to play'.”
Redknapp said the players would tell him “'Nah, my girlfriend is having a baby in four weeks, I don't want to play' and that is the truth, so it makes you wonder.
“And I think it's only going to get worse. You see the stick the England players get and they come home. They're earning fantastic money at their clubs, they're all playing in the Champions League. They think, 'Do we need the aggro?'“
England went out after consecutive 2-1 Group D defeats to Italy and Uruguay. They will leave Brazil after playing surprise group leaders Costa Rica on Tuesday.
England players led by Wayne Rooney have apologised to fans while facing often vitriolic criticism from British media, some of whom have called them “idiots”.
Rooney said he was “devastated” at England's exit and that the players need to acquire more “nastiness” to end 48 years of underachievement since winning the World Cup in 1966.
“I think you look at teams who have won the tournament over previous years and you can see that nastiness in them. I think we need to get that in us,” he said.
“Maybe we're too honest, as a team. Uruguay the other night (Thursday), they stopped the game, they committed I don't know how many fouls. Clever fouls, really, to slow the game down.”
Some of the foreign stars in the English Premier League have come to the defence of their teammates in the England squad.
Netherlands captain Robin van Persie has defended Manchester United strike partner Rooney amid the attacks.
“I don't think you can blame him for scoring a goal, working his socks off and missing three chances by inches,” said van Persie. “Wayne is a great player and part of why I came to Manchester United.”
Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said “small details” had cost England.
“I think they were given a very difficult group,” Ibrahimovic told Qatari sports cable channel BeIn Sport.
“Italy are obviously a very strong nation, Uruguay are too, and they haven't even played Costa Rica yet.
“So they are already out but the two games they had were very difficult and that's the way it is. They have fantastic players and I think they did good and didn't do bad but small details make the difference,” he commented.