If you support England, how are you feeling right now? The next 24 hours or so are a test of everyone’s bottle. Some England fans tend to think this is a unique condition that afflicts them only but it’s the same for many countries supporters in the coming days. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry as a football fan; the grit that makes the pearl.
Personally, I love these times the best – when there’s a real and palpable tension in the air; a sense of anticipation – like that moment when the roadies flick the amps on and you can hear the hiss and crackle of electricity in the PA for the first time. Actually, in these days of noise gates and advanced PA tech that probably doesn’t happen any more; gone are the days when some hairy bloke would walk on stage and turn on the Marshall stacks, it’s probably all digital now.
All is still possible. That is something to still relish. It may be different after tomorrow’s game, its impossible to call. It seems to me that the criticism England have received has been based around the notion that ‘we should be beating sides like USA, Algeria.’ Yes they have played poorly against Algeria especially, but this ‘we should beating sides like this’ concept is one which England fans seem to lapse into by default based on not much at all.
Do they look at the rankings and see these team well below England, therefore assume we should beat them, right? I doubt it. More often it’s just a gut reaction – they don’t sound like they’re a good side so we should beat them; its no more sophisticated than that.
But this totally fails to understand both the quality of the players and also how many sides perform in a tournament, regardless of their form outside of it. Many sides, as we have seen, substantially raise their game in the same way that a lower league side does in the FA Cup.
While the more blinkered England fans still seem to think that We Are England and therefore better than most, the more informed observer knows this is spurious nonsense. Time and again we see sides that may be lower ranked but who have tremendous first touch, and organisation the like of which should be the envy of England.
It seems the England fan base, still so critical of its side, are slow to learn our real place in world football as one of many ‘also-rans.’ There’s no shame in admitting our real position because until we do that, we can’t free ourselves from this idea that ‘we should be beating teams like this,’ whoever teams like this are.
It’s also rather disrespectful to other nations that we so lightly judge their skill and talent. You’d think in the globalized world of football, this wouldn’t happen any more but it still does time and again. If its not Brazil or Spain we’re playing many think we should just roll over any team, especially an African or East European side. No wonder they’re so shocked when it turns out they can actually play!
But if they stopped to think for a moment, there’s a reason that there’s been a big influx of African born and East European players into the Premier League – it’s because they’re better than the home-grown talent available. So you’d think by extension, the majority of people would have learned by now that if a player hails from some distant land you’ve never been too or possibly can’t find on a map, that doesn’t mean he’s some sort of hick who doesn’t wear shoes, who can dazzle with our fabulous football.
The World Cup should inform us of this truth but many seem blinkered to the reality and will go on bleating about England being able to beat sides like this based on little more than basic ignorance and misunderstanding. If we just replaced the word ‘should’ with ‘hope’ we’d have a much healthier attitude.