I have been on record (prior to the World Cup, so not an excuse) as saying that one of the reasons England struggle in World Cups and Euro Championships is that the players are physically worn out from a season in the English Premier League. Note, I said "one" of the reasons. There are other factors that cause England's below par performances in major championships. But I want to focus on the effects the EPL season has on players.
first, we have to realize that the EPL is simply more physical, in terms of the amount of running, speed of play and the physical challenges, than other leagues.
The cold and wet weather should also be added to the equation. Let me explain. Spain and Italy for example have a warmer climate. In England, the players often practice and play in temperatures slightly above freezing and it wet and windy conditions. This means they have to run around like crazy just to keep warm. Practicing in Spain or Italy when it is a nice 60F, is a different matter. It's much more comfortable and less taxing on the players.
So the climate is a factor. It means more running around in practices and games than in a warmer climate.
Then compare the pace of an EPL game to that of one from Spain or Italy. It's as different as night and day. The EPL games are incredibly fast and furious from the first minute to the last. An Italian or Spanish game seem to be made up a slow build up followed by lightning fast play for a few seconds when near or in the penalty area.
The bottom line is I don't think anyone can argue that the EPL takes a more physical toll on players than other leagues.
I also want to add to the equation, that there is a cumulative effect. A 22 year old player will be less effected by this than a 28 or 30 year old. Gerrard is a good example of this. He has been a shadow of his former self this season and I would argue that the cumulative effect of the EPL has taken its toll and we are likely to not see him at his best again. Rooney could be right on the beginning stages of this.
Yes other countries have players in the EPL, but practically all of England's squad were EPL players.
But to attempt to further prove my theory, let me ask this question.
Name me one player who plays in the EPL, who had a good World Cup? Torres, Rooney, Fabregas, Gerrard, are all superstar players, but didn't perform. Yes previous injuries were a factor in some of them, but that goes to my point about the EPL being physical as injuries are part of this.
The best example I can think of is Dirk Kyut and the best that can be said for him was that he had a "decent" World Cup.
If you can think of anyone else, post it in the Comments section.
So how can players like Forlan, who struggled at Man U, all of a sudden become a stud in the World Cup? I don't know, but I do think it wouldn't have happened if he was still playing in the EPL.