English football fans, part time or globe trotting devout followers, are normally a pesimistic group. If one looks at the facts, it is clearly obvious why. A nation claiming to be the founding father of the sport, a soccer obsessed public and only a solitary World Cup achieved 47 years ago (and counting) to show for it. Why should anybody be optimistic regarding the chances of success in Brazil 2014 and beyond?
For decades, the English public has been left disappointed by the abject lack of success achieved by the men’s national football team. The pain is evident in the voice and keyboard-tapping of every English man and woman who has had to endure “yet another” defeat in the knock out stages of a World Cup. These individuals are not all naturally cynical and most can recall a time they may have believed England could emulate the Boys of 66 themselves when watching previous tournaments as bright eyed children themselves.
What is concerning these days is the lack of anyone, young or old, being remotely positive about the team’s chances in Brazil 2014. This despite qualifying undefeated and top of a group that could have been much more straightforward had the draw been kinder to England. Conceding the second lowest total of goals in qualifying and escaping difficult away ties in Kiev, Warsaw and Podgorica without loss is no mean feat and time will tell how the supposedly more accomplished national squads will cope against the same opposition.
We’ve already seen what one of those teams many consider technically superior to England has done against the runners up from England’s group. France must play their second leg of their World Cup playoff this week after losing 2-0 to Ukraine in Eastern Europe. Yes, France did not win their qualifying group. A squad containing individual talent such as (Champions League player of the year) Ribery, Benzema and Pogba have had to face a playoff battle just to qualify. The same applies for (former Balon d’Or winner) Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and multiple league winning star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On another side of the world, Luis Suarez’ Uruguay have also had to face a playoff against Jordan to fight for the right to participate in next summer’s competition. Ultimately, some of the best players in the world may end up spending next summer on a beach in Dubai and not the Copacabana.
Brazil have qualified as hosts but lost a friendly at Wembley and were also lucky to draw against a disciplined England side at the Maracana in the summer. Germany must always be considered a threat in international tournaments, despite the fact they have also been pot less since 1996. It will be useful to see how Roy Hodgson’s squad performs on Tuesday night against the current German team to assess the difference in quality between both sides. No one is expecting England to dominate possession and win the World Cup at a canter, but then that has arguably not happened since 2002 with Brazil comfortably winning matches throughout the tournament in Japan/South Korea. It is important to remember even the Spanish team, regarded by many as one of the finest squads of all time, only won all games in South Africa by the odd goal (hardly a landslide, despite possession stats).
The heat will be a factor for all European teams, which must be considered an advantage for South American and African nations participating. All in all, it is clear there is not a great deal of difference in the quality of teams at international level. But to suggest this is going to be yet another summer that will breed a new generation of cynics in England is a pessimistic and not entirely helpful attitude.
Editor’s note: Read our news, analysis and opinion about the England national team.