World Cup 2010: Will England disappoint yet again?

Yesterday seemed something of a déjà vu for England fans: Enormous expectations ahead of a major tournament that were doused by personal error and underachievement. This time it was England goalkeeper Rob Green’s schoolboy error of a fumble from a seemingly harmless shot from Clint Dempsey that saw the USA earn a point, but there have been many other disappointments.

In 1950, an England team that was supposedly one of the best in the world shockingly lost 1-0 to the USA in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in what is probably the biggest upset in World Cup history and a premonition of things to come. Even the USA, a team of amateurs and semi-pro’s, hadn’t really believed themselves capable of winning, and had been out drinking the night before. Joe Gaetjens, a dishwasher by trade, scored the winning goal.

In 1970, England had been 2-0 up against Germany in the World Cup quarterfinal, but ended up loosing 3-2 after extra time. Here, as yesterday, the goalkeeper was blamed for the result.

In 1974, 1978 and 1994 England failed to qualify for the World Cup altogether, and in 1990, 1998 and 2006 lost on penalties – something that has almost become a trademark.

England fans thus often see their national tram as being world football’s greatest underachievers – especially after Spain, who has also mostly underachieved at international level, won the recent European Championships and are tipped to win the World Cup. The English league is probably the best league in the world, and although many of its star players are foreigners, the backbone of the England team includes star players from Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool such as Rooney, Lampard, Terry and Gerrard. In the seventies, a decade where England failed to qualify for two successive World Cups, English football won no less that 8 European club tournaments. So the quality that is definitely there at club level is not transfered to the national team.

Whether these underachievements are due to the players not being able to cope with the seemingly unrealistic expectations of England fans, or whether it is part of a more general national declinism that has its roots in a combination of a national superiority complex and a subconscious post-empire defeatism is hard to say, however. The only certainty regarding the England Football Team is that the last 60 years (of hurt) have shown a large discrepancy between expectations and achievement and a subsequent oscillation between overconfidence and defeatism amongst England fans.

So if all goes to plan in this World Cup, England will scrape through the group stage with unspectacular wins over Algeria and Slovenia and loose to Germany or Serbia in the second round, or France in the quarterfinals, on penalties. But perhaps this is being overtly defeatist?

England did after all win the World Cup in 1966 (albeit at home), and reached the semi-finals in 1990.

One Response to World Cup 2010: Will England disappoint yet again?

  1. Pingback: World Cup 2010: England play “one of the worst games ever” yet again… « Stiffkitten's Blog

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