Thursday, May 27, 2010

I wouldn't put my money on England winning the World Cup (but I'd like them to prove me wrong)

As I settled into my morning procrastination at my desk, I came across this article about Rio Ferdinand, England and 1966 omens, rolled my eyes and just groaned. I'm getting fed up with so-called experts claiming that it could be England's year (just like 2006 was going to be England's year, and 2002, and 1998, and come to think of it every year). Why do so many Englishmen fall into the trap of believing that we are far better than we actually are? England may have been the birthplace of modern association football and largely responsible for its proliferation around the globe, but the end of English football dominance was marked long ago in 1953 with the 6:3 loss to Hungary and the 7-1 defeat in the reverse fixture six months later. Would England have won the World Cup in 1966 if it had been hosted anywhere else. Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, authors of "Why England Lose & Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained" don't believe so as playing at home is statistically significantly advantageous. Since 66, England have only managed two semi-finals, one of which was at home in 96 and in 1990 they won only two games in normal time. It's time to realise that while England has arguably the strongest domestic league in the world, the national team is simply a good team with a couple of world class players rather than a world class team. England just aren't in the same class as Brazil or Spain. While I don't necessarily agree with all of Kuper and Szymanski's methods (how can a draw be classed as half a win? A win gets three times as many points), their analysis emphasise that England are consistently good but not great; usually a top ten team. Reaching the quarter finals of the last few major tournaments reflects such a standing and their eighth place in the current world rankings suggest another quarter final exit. I wouldn't say that was a bad result but I guess that there'll be a lot people that won't agree.

For all my moaning, come June 12th when England play the US in their first game, I know that I will be wearing my new England shirt, watching the game in a fan park in Johannesburg, suspending all rational thought and succumbing to the belief that maybe, just maybe, it'll be England's year. I can't help it...


  1. The "omen" articles are funny.
    North korea in their first WC since 1966, Spain were Euro champions in 66,
    West Ham had Moore (capt) Hurst and Peters in the team, whereas now there is Ferdinand as capt. albeit ex West Ham, substitute Peters with Lampard and Defoe for Hurst and the omen is complete. (then there are Green/Parker/Upson as current Hammers and Glen Johnson/Joe Cole/James/Terry/Carrick as ex Hammers and the theory gets wilder! Intriguing!

  2. Yeah, I talked about the whole 'quarter-final' team thing on a blog last year, and it tends to come up quite often in conversation with Japanese friends with their own opinions - lofty or otherwise - about England's status.

    I think part of our trouble - certainly through the Eriksson era - has been our consistency. Quarter-finals are par for the course, but par is rarely very interesting. It would be a lot more exciting to bogey one hole by getting knocked out early, then birdie then next by reaching the semis.

    By that logic, failure to qualify for Euro 2008 was actually then a double bogey, meaning we must be due an eagle this year.

    Shit, we're going to lose in the final.

  3. Ben, we may lose in the final but hopefully they'll win the QF we're going to. Better than a slap in the face surely?

  4. I guess so, yeah. Though if England get to the final I may just have to kill my mate on his wedding day for forcing me to watch it in Japan, in the middle of the night, and while horribly jet-lagged!

    Actually, the whole quarter-final thing puts a bit of pressure on the USA game - normally finishing second in the group is a shame but no disaster... this year it's personal!


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