Sheffield, England:Pele believes England is too quick to blame its managers for underachieving - instead of admitting that the soccer-mad country is starved of talent.
The national team's only significant triumph remains the 1966 World Cup, which it hosted, and is now in danger of missing its first major tournament since the 1994 World Cup after last month's defeat in Russia maintained a patchy qualifying campaign for the European Championship.
Manager Steve McClaren, fighting for his future after 15 months at the helm, needs Israel to deny Russia three points on November 17 and for his team to beat Croatia four days later at Wembley.
"England has few very good players," three-time World Cup winner Pele said on Wednesday.
"When those players get injured in a tough, long tournament they don't have a player to replace them - that is the big problem in England.
"Unlike other countries, Brazil in particular, you don't have many choices when either players are off form or not playing well," he added.
He insists McClaren isn't at fault.
"It's normal all over the world that the coach is always the one whom people blame when results don't go well," Pele said. "You have to see the whole process, not just the management."
Pele points to his country's failure to reach the knockout phase of the 1982 World Cup.
"Brazil had the best team, was fantastic with excellent players, and lost the World Cup," he said. "The coach is not the real problem. When things start to go badly, the team doesn't work well, sometimes it's tough to change."
England's so-called "golden generation," featuring the talents of David Beckham and Michael Owen, has gone out at the quarterfinals at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and Euro 2004, under Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Pele was in northern England to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the world's first soccer club, Sheffield FC. The amateur side plays Inter Milan in a friendly on Thursday.
While labeling the Premier League as the strongest in the world, Pele believes Englishmen must get more match experience in teams swamped with foreign players.
"Countries should give opportunities for their own players if they want a strong national team," he said. "If you take a country like Brazil or Argentina, they don't have foreigners. But because they don't have the money to pay - that is the difference."
'United States fans were misled'
Pele believes American fans were misled about what David Beckham could bring to Major League Soccer.
Amid great fanfare, the former England captain was unveiled by the Los Angeles Galaxy in July, but his greatest impact has been on ticket sales and merchandise.
"They announced him as a scorer of goals," Pele said. "He isn't a goal scorer - that was a mistake."
In five league matches, Beckham scored one goal - from a trademark free kick - before being ruled out with a knee injury for seven weeks.
Pele, a three-time World Cup-winning Brazil striker, generated huge publicity for the North America Soccer League when he made his debut for the New York Cosmos in 1975.
More than 75,000 New York fans saw his final match two years later, when he played the first half with the Cosmos and the second half with his former Brazilian team, Santos.
But soccer then struggled to compete with the established American sports or generate publicity _ until Beckham's arrival.
Pele believes MLS players' salaries need to be raised to the level of American football or baseball players. He also wants the lifting of restrictions on player movements, designed to stop wealthy teams amassing the best players.
"This was one of the mistakes _ they have to give freedom to the owners of the teams to buy the players and (chose) which players they want to put (out)," Pele said.
"The big mistake in the league now is to control the level of the teams. If they opened this up, it would be much better," he added.