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Football: Arrogance will be our downfall; WORLD CUP DIARY.

Byline: Chris Bascobmbe's

THE next time a flag waving England fan says Sven's boys are going to win the World Cup, push your face up as close as possible and shout: "I PITY YOU."

Once they've been assured a call to the local constabulary isn't required, ask them the following. What have Paraguay, Cameroon, Belgium and Denmark got in common? They're the only giants of the international game England have beaten in the World Cup knockout stage since 1966.

There's a fine line between boisterous self-confidence and unjustified arrogance. England consistently trip up on the wrong side..

In international football, all England has ever done is win a few back-to-back home games in 1966, winning thanks to the most dubious goal in the competition's history. Our last five World Cups were ended by Brazil, Argentina, Germany (twice) and Spain.

When the going gets tough, the only place England get going to is the airport. Three lions? Three Siamese kittens, more like.

Such negativity will provoke the St George's flag brigade to recoil in horror, but the facts are clear.

The rest of the world laughs at our bravado, identifying a land with illusions of grandeur. We portray the players as Churchillian war heroes, ready to invade foreign soil and return to a land fit for heroes.

Actually, we're more like Dad's Army. Brian Barwick is looking like Captain Mainwaring, Sven's a rich man's Clive Dunn and, sorry Crouchy, there's a touch of Pike there. As for Walker the cockney spiv, David Beckham, anyone?

The psyche heading into major tournaments is utterly wrong. Winning the World Cup should be an aspiration dripped in hope, not expectation.

Rather than demand victory, we should acknowledge a quarter-final place as success.

For sure, there should be a hunger to go beyond this.

Dreams of outright victory are the lifeblood of the game. But hearing why England should win the competition is as debilitating as the soaring temperatures.

England would gain a psychological advantage if they stumbled upon modesty. We're underdogs. Outsiders.

Unlikely winners.

But not enough players are humble enough to feel they have anything to prove. The World Cup is a marketing opportunity, fuelling a self-publicity drive.

Take the Beckham pre-World Cup party. Would Rafa Benitez or David Moyes allow such an indulgence on the eve of the biggest fixtures of their lives?

Beckham contributes to the vicious cycle of hype, presumption and ultimate disappointment, making ridiculous, bullish pronouncements about our chances.

Press conferences would be far more appealing if he urged the nation to take the chill pills and analyse our overall record in major tournaments.

We shouldn't expect England to win this World Cup.

A series of quality performances, memorable goals and gutsy displays is the most we can ask for.

If that should lead to further glory, Eriksson's side can then be applauded for one of the greatest upsets in history.

Instead, each time I see another headline announcing 'we're going all the way' I can't help hearing the immortal words of another Dad's Army veteran, Private Fraser.

"We're doo-oo-med."
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 16, 2006
Previous Article:Football: Big guns in top shape.
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