England’s impossible feet

On paper, England look set for a quarter final clash with either Germany or Brazil in the upcoming World Cup in Russia. On grass, however, England often end up disappointing.

Premier League stars such as Sterling, Alli, and Kane ought to ensure that England qualify easily from what looks to be the easiest group of the World Cup – Group G with Panama, Tunisia and Belgium. And in the second round, Poland, Senegal, Colombia or Japan also look beatable.

But as anyone who has followed the ups and (many) downs of England in major football tournaments knows, matters are never that straightforward on the pitch.

Fifty years of hurt
Since England won the 1966 World Cup at Wembley, Germany and Brazil have both won three World Cups and Italy two. All three nations have qualified for all 12 World Cups.

France and Argentina have won three World Cups between them and have reached 4 semi-finals each since 1966.

England, on the other hand, have only reached one World Cup semi-final and failed to qualify for three out of 12 tournaments. England have also played numerous tedious games at World Cups, including goalless draws against Costa Rica, Algeria and Morocco.

So why have England, in the view of fans and the English press, underachieved at most major tournaments since 1966?

Why do players who play an important role for their clubs in the Premier League and Champions League often “freeze” on the world stage?

And why did England’s so-called “golden generation” of Owen, Beckham, Gerrard and Rooney often play more timid and unadventurous football than at club-level and never get beyond the quarter final?

The curse of 66
Is it a case of too high expectations, and too much living in the past, post-1966. And is this very English melancholic nostalgia derived from a more general national declinism that has its roots in a combination of a national superiority complex and a subconscious sense of post-empire defeatism?

Do too many English players lack a sense of individual and technical ability, because these traits have been deemed “un-English” and effeminate since Victorian times?

Are England’s young stars thrown to the lions – the press and fans – too soon in their career?

Are there too few English players in foreign leagues (none of Southgate’s squad play abroad as opposed to most other successful nations), and too few English players willing to learn from foreign players?

Or have successive England teams simply not had the talent, strategic proficiency or nerve to perform any better?

Perhaps we will be a little wiser come July.

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