Can England Win The 2014 World Cup? Don’t Believe The Hype.
England can win the World Cup! A phrase which we will hear continuously from the UK media and pretty much playing on a loop on Sky Sports news until their opening group game in Brazil in June 2014, when the 3 lions will fail to win resulting in a call for Roy Hodgson to be hung, drawn and quartered….. with his head displayed on a spike outside Buckingham Palace.
There was mass panic down south prior to England’s final two group games, genuine concern that they would fail to secure the points required against Montenegro, then Poland, to ensure automatic qualification for Brazil 2014. A comprehensive victory over Montenegro guaranteed at least a play off spot for England but also gave us another contender for greatest player in the world, a new hero was found in Spurs’ Andros Townsend.
The Spurs Saviour
A surprise selection in the starting eleven raised eyebrows before kick off and raised expectations at the final whistle. The week before had been filled with calls for Manchester United wonderkid Adnan Junajaz to commit to the England cause, however, he was quickly forgotten as Townsend had a decent game immediately propelling him as the next great English hope. Never mind that England toiled in the first half and failed to score, a goal, assist and some decent runs from the Spurs man meant that they were again among the worlds elite!
Poland and their 20,000 fans came calling to Wembley on Tuesday. Panic again ensued at the slightest thing, like why so many Poles were allowed in the stadium, it was almost like a home game for Poland now! To be honest it wouldn’t have mattered if there were 20,000 or 20 Polish fans there, they would have still created a better atmosphere than their English counterparts. For all that Wembley is a fantastic sports arena the atmosphere created by home fans at international games is pretty poor.
England had of course failed to qualify for a World Cup before at the hand of the Poles and their circus clown goalkeeper. There was a real fear among English fans and media that history could repeat itself. Ultimately, they secured a solid 2 – 0 win but if it hadn’t been for a late Steven Gerrard goal there would have been a very, very nervy closing period.
As soon as the final whistle blew Sky Sports news dismissed their usual yellow ticker at the bottom of the screen and displayed a huge yellow headline confirming England’s qualification. The morning papers proclaimed headlines of “Roys boys off to Rio” and “it’s just like watching Brazil” as they begin their quest to build the hopes of a nation, while readying themselves to absolutely destroy the team as soon as they drop anything at the tournament. In fact, I would not be surprised if there are calls for Hodgson to be sacked on the back of a couple of poor friendly results leading up to the tournament.
The Hodgson Factor
Roy Hodgson is a very good manager. He’s also an easy target for the English press. Roy has achieved the country’s aim of qualification with a decent group of players and maintained an unbeaten record in the qualification group. However, they drew 4 times in the group and failed to beat their closest challengers Ukraine. The goals for column looks healthy with 31 scored in 10 games a pretty impressive return. What it doesn’t show is that 22 of those came in the 4 games against San Marino and Moldova. In the 6 games against the stronger teams in the group, England scored 9 and conceded 4. They actually only won 2 of these games, the final two group games at home, and drew the rest.Looking at it in black and white, it doesn’t look like the form or quality of a team that can win the tournament or in fact even be considered a decent outside bet.
Hodgson should be applauded for his achievements, he has been under immense pressure since being appointed ahead of the fans favourite and media darling Harry Redknapp, despite Hodgson clearly being by far the better candidate. Hodgson has had a decent group of players to select from as well as being blessed with the exceptional talents of Gerrard and Rooney, two players that are among the world’s elite. While the England manager has described qualification as the greatest moment of his career, he will now have to contend with pressure that has never been put on him before, a type of pressure that is quite unique to the England managers job. Of course there is pressure in every high level job in World football but pretty much every other country are realistic, something that is very alien to the English press pack.
England are not currently one of the top four teams in Europe, let alone the world. They will be in pot 2 when the World Cup draw takes place in December and realistically should be happy to get out of the group next year. What WILL happen however, is expectation levels will continue to rise until they hit fever pitch in June 2014. There will be cries to replicate the spirit of ’66 and a plethora of pressmen, pundits and ex-players telling the world how England can beat the likes of Spain, Brazil and how to take out the Germans in a penalty shoot out!
England are the country everyone loves to hate on the football stage, its not their managers fault, its not their players fault its entirely the fault of their over exuberant media and completely unrealistic fans. As a Scot I can’t hide the fact that I am jealous that our southern neighbours will be in Brazil and we won’t. However, at this stage, I am only looking forward to what should be one of the best World Cups ever, the fact its being held in Brazil just adds to the excitement.
What will transpire over the next 8 months is us being force fed a constant stream of English media drivel about how they are genuine contenders and how they can plan to win the tournament, which will turn the stomach of every football fan outside of England to the point we will be glued to our TV’s for their opening game hoping they get absolutely pumped!
I like Roy Hodgson, I think he has some exceptional players in his squad and I would genuinely like to wish them well, I should be looking forward to seeing the likes of Gerrard, Rooney and even Celtic’s own Fraser Forster compete against the world’s best. Unfortunately, that well known and recognised English arrogance will completely and utterly put paid to any good feelings coming their way from north of the border.
It would be so refreshing for the English media to just show joy and happiness at reaching the tournament and remain realistic in their expectations, if this happened, maybe just maybe they would get support and even some solidarity from their immediate neighbours. We all know there is more chance of David Cameron having the bottle to take on Alex Salmond in a live TV debate than there is of the English media being realistic!
So can England win the World Cup? In a nutshell no, they’ll be very lucky to get to the quarter finals. They simply do not have the players to compete at the highest level. The World Cup is a fantastic tournament, I can’t wait for it to begin and at this stage I have a genuine respect for the England team as one of the nations there. However, this will slowly but surely be chipped away over the coming months to the point that an early flight home for the English will be entirely what they deserve for bombarding us with constant drivel. When June arrives, thanks to the English media, who will we want to win the World Cup? Anyone but England!