PETER MORTIMER dares to pour cold water on England’s World Cup dream
THE NATION IS JUMPING FOR JOY, horns blaring, flags waving. TV pundits talk of a ‘new’ England team, reborn; gone, they say, is the England of old. And just to prove it here we are in the last eight of the World Cup for the first time since 1966, (when we had home soil advantage).
And, as if to clinch the argument, they conclude that for the first time in the history of the universe we have won a World Cup game on penalties!
Frankly, all this gives me the World Cup willies!
Risking the nation’s wrath, might I ‘umbly suggest that we have largely been serving up the same old rubbish we have for the past fifty-odd years?
Okay, a promising first half again Panama (one of the game’s minnows) did NOT deserve the commentators’ excessive praise. In the second half we lost our nerve, fell away badly and looked liked losing a point until Citizen Kane rescued us with a late, late goal.
Then Tunisia, again hardly a football Titan: we banged in six, though even manager Southgate admitted that he was not overpleased with the performance before realising that his immediate.post-game reaction ran counter to the nation’s euphoric mood and required qualification. Kane’s hat-trick? Two penalties and one lucky rebound.
Finally, Belgium: Southgate made eight changes “to give all the lads a run-out”, a fine philosophy for a Sunday League team but not so much in the World Cup when you’re looking for consistency. Luckily, Belgium made nine changes but THEIR B-team, proved superior to ours and we deservedly lost, despite much of the media hailing it as England’s “tactical victory”. Fact: we did not play well.
That brought on Colombia, four places below England in world rankings and with their best player, Rodriguez, out injured.
We began promisingly but our early goal scared US more than it did Colombia: long spells were spent passing the ball squarely or in reverse, which simply increased the terror on England’s defenders who saw no option other than to redirect the ball fifty yards back to the goalkeeper.
As a result, Colombia justifiably equalised in injury time and In the first 15 minutes of extra time England’s ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’ revealed players with all the flexibility of a shop window dummy and the imagination of a cardboard box: a team of eleven lumbering dumbos in red.
How fortunate their second-half recovery and how blissful their good fortune in the penalty shootout!
And so to the quarter-final against Sweden. Remember: England have scored just one goal (a penalty) in the last 180 minutes of open play and are performing worse than any other team left in the competition. No unbiased observer seriously sees them as a contender for that Jules Rimet Trophy.
How lovely it would be for me to be proved wrong. How wonderful if against Sweden they produced free-flowing, uninhibited football, were victorious and had the football world swooning.
I shall more than happily eat my words, gently cooked and served in a futbol-ognaise sauce.
Sadly, so far there’s been no football revolution, a truth few of us, heavily influenced by a biased and vested interest media, are prepared to admit.