England Fans: Underestimate The Opposition At Your Peril

June 21, 2010 - Rustenburg, South Africa - epa02214167 England soccer team player Frank Lampard speaks against the backdrop portrait of his Italian head coach Fabio Capello during a press conference in Rustenburg, South Africa, 21 June 2010. England will face Slovenia in the FIFA 2010 World Cup group C soccer match on 23 June.

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.

C’mon England!

14 thoughts on “England Fans: Underestimate The Opposition At Your Peril”

  1. The only teams overperforming so far are the South American teams. Of the “chalk” in Europe only Holland are doing well. Every other team has questions, some teams (France, England?) are on the verge of implosion. The African teams are also suffering from stage fright.

  2. At this point I doubt whether England or the U.S. are in danger of underestimating tomorrow’s opponent. Both sides know what they need to do….suck it up and play their best for 90 minutes.

    Here’s hoping they both can make good on that.

  3. It could very easily all go horribly wrong.

    England are so close to not progressing.

    But as optimits we all think the players will get over themselves and play for themselves and forget the issues with the manager and just get on with it.

  4. Just re-read the article. Its really not well written.

    England fans expect to win as the asset value of our players is higher than any other in our group.

    Plain and simple.

    Donovan, Dempsey and Howard are excellent US players, but the rest play for second string teams on lower wages and transfer fees.

    Algeria and Slovenia are in an even worse situation.

    All the England players play in the EPL and should expect to beat opposition in the same way as an MLS team should be a semi pro US team.

    We expect to win as the players have achieved higher professional levels.

    No more, no less. Forget the upside down jingoism.

    England expects.

    1. No, I am hardly an expert, but I think that England’s biggest problem is that they look like 11 individuals on the field. Meanwhile, their opponents, while individually less talented seem to be playing more like teams.

      The USA has faced this in Olympic Basketball, even after professionals were allowed. Even though the USA still produces most of the best basketball players, and had them on the USA team, they still lost when they should have won. If your “team” is nothing but egos, you are going to loose at least a step maybe more and in an era where the other side is likely to have at least a few quality players, you may not be able to afford to loose that step.

    2. This article is written for guys like you. You can tell me how English players play at Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and so on while Americans play for Fulham, Galaxy, Danish clubs and such, but that doesn’t mean anything on this stage to me. Look at Brazil, they have players at Santos, Cruzeiro, Galatasaray, Sevilla. All very good clubs, but not regarded as highly to you because they don’t have the same kind of history and recent CL run as the top 4 in England. But they’ve got 5 times more championships then you.

      The point is, you should not expect to beat anyone just because you have players playing in top teams at the top league. You can’t compare club form and country form, because the hottest players at club (Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi) are all proven to be not as effective for country. Players like Zidane, Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo (fat) are players that are true class because they can turn it on for both.

      So in closing, England may expect, but they shouldn’t. It’s still a team game, sir.

    3. “Donovan, Dempsey and Howard are excellent US players, but the rest play for second string teams on lower wages and transfer fees.”

      So unless a player plays in England he is “second string”? You are aware some decent football is played in Italy, Germany and Spain, right?

  5. oh yes, no doubt

    the chemistry is a shambles and thats why they havnt performed

    an italian manager
    prima donna players
    too long an EPL season

    take your prick of the exscuses for not thrashing the US and Algeria 5 nil each time

    its a real shame

    I only hope the players get themselves self motivated ans start behaving like a team and work together and concentrate on simple things like passing

    but I acknowledge England are so close to going home its not funny

  6. I don’t think England fans are underestimating anyone. Expectations for this world cup are much lower than the last one despite the press hype. Most of us expected to get through the group but not much further beyond that. Tomorrow’s situation will tell us all we need to know about the current squad, including the manager and the coaching staff. In theory, backs to the wall, do or die. It’s what we do best. But the vibe from this squad suggests we are closer to going home in disgrace like France than turning things around. This England fan is hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.

  7. Who cares if English fans underestimate, overestimate, or judge fairly the opposition? The English team still has to beat Slovenia… and I don’t think they’ll do it. Slovenia wins later today.

  8. Great results.

    England should have won 4-0 but didnt but 1-0 was fine.

    The USA has finally arrived in the soccer world when they are in danger of not qualifying due to referee errors.

    Well done Donovan. Fair results for the group. England didnt deserve to win the group. Stupid spilled save and a crap game against Algeria and the USA had two perfectly good goals disallowed.

    See you in the final.

    I hope.

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