Monday, 14 June 2010
USA 1 - English Arrogance 0
The Sun ran the headline ‘England Algeria Slovenia Yanks’ the day after the World Cup draw had been made. England Algeria Slovenia Yanks, vertically down the page. EASY. My fury at the time at this show of preposterous arrogance was replaced by self indulgence on Saturday night when I basked in a spot of ‘I told you so’ arrogance myself. The Americans are NOT a bad side. Not a bad side at all. They are the last side to beat Spain. We haven’t beaten Spain since 2001. Last summer at the Confederations Cup where the Americans secured their famous win, they also very nearly beat Brazil in the final, contriving to throw away a two-goal lead.
As the pages of this blog warned only last week, England’s opener would not be the foregone conclusion many implausibly ignorant observers would have you believe. And it was so. Anecdotally at least, however, I still feel that the consensus of opinion is still overwhelmingly that England will walk the group by thrashing the whipping boys, before strolling past Serbia or more than likely, Ghana in the last 16, before thumping a sad French side seemingly wracked by infighting to set up a face-off against an actual team, Brazil, in the semis. Let me just hammer that home. ENGLAND ARE GOING TO STROLL INTO THE SEMI FINALS OF THE WORLD CUP. What planet do people live on?
Because I now run the very real risk of giving myself an ulcer, all I can do as a humble blogger is lay down a few facts. In the last four World Cups, England have beaten Colombia, Tunisia, Denmark, Ecuador, Trinidad & Tobago and Argentina. We have drawn with Nigeria, Sweden twice and the USA. We have lost to Argentina, Portugal (both on penalties), Brazil and Romania. We haven’t beaten Holland since Euro ’96, which was the last time we had a genuine chance of winning a major tournament. England have lost their past three friendlies to Spain, all in the noughties. You have to look even further back to find when England last beat the Brazilians – a friendly in 1990. A victory against the French last came 13 years ago in La Tournoi in 1997. It is also at that same warm up tournament that England last beat the holders, Italy.
Before yesterday’s hugely impressive pasting of the Aussies, the Germans had been written off wholesale by the English. We are talking about a side that has got to a final and a semi in the last two tournaments and hasn’t dropped out of a World Cup before the quarter final stage since 1938. Our so-called ‘Golden Generation’ (and if I had bigger apostrophes I would use them) would kill for a record like that. England’s last two competitive tournaments featuring ‘Golden Generation’ cast: quarter finals and didn’t qualify.
Please print off this article and hand it to any England fan you know who thinks we are going to stroll into the semis. I know I sound like Kevin Killjoy, but I like to think of myself more as a Roy of the Realists. A solitary World Cup win on home soil 44 years ago a footballing superpower does not make. Imagine going out on the piss with some Uruguayans and after their third pint they are banging on about winning one more World Cup than you and you get the gist of the interminable hype that surrounds England every time there is a major tournament. Unsurprisingly, none of the facts mentioned above were dwelt upon over the weekend by the ITV or BBC teams. But one DID keep cropping up. England drew their first game against Uruguay in 1966. So obviously, if you put two and two together you come up with 2010, in which case a draw against the States means a World Cup win. Incredible analysis from our boys there. The amount of crap fed to the English public by the bullshit brigade is astounding. Headed most audibly by Adrian Chiles and Kevin Keegan, the latter predicted a 4-1 England win on Saturday. And he packed in his job in 2000 why? This is a man who goes into a grocers to buy a pound of apples and come out with a bag full of onions.
As it stands now, the focus needs to be on the next game. Not Ghana in the next round. Or France. Or Brazil. Or Spain in the final. But Algeria. On Friday, England need to win. Then, and only then, they can look to the Slovenia game. As clichés go, ‘taking each game as it comes’ could not be more apt right now. House in order first, knockout stages later, if only for my own sanity. Adam Bushby