7 Worst Things About the England World Cup Experience
The World Cup is great. With 64 football matches played in four weeks to decide the best in the world, what’s not to like?
Being in England, that’s what.
While the host nation enjoys a festival of football, England goes through the same motions every four years making the experience annoying and as predictable as the football team’s early exit.
The tournament itself can only be enjoyed after England are out, leaving fans to enjoy the rest of the competition as a neutral. But some annoyances last for the duration.
Here are the seven worst things about the World Cup experience in England.
England Car Flags
Car flags are like Christmas decorations in England. In November, you will see the odd house decorated in lights early, but as soon as the December arrives the streets are full of them.
You will see one or two cars sporting flags at first, after the owner jumped the gun early to show how much he/she loves England.
Then, all of a sudden, they are everywhere. Most cars have one, some have two and unfortunately some even have four.
If you are in a car, and the flag happens to be on your window, you cannot put your window down. No matter how hot it is.
Granted, summers in England are not consistently hot, but on the days the temperature is up, you want your windows down.
You can even try and hide or dispose the flag bought for your family car, but it will still be on the window the next day. You will never be sure how it got there, but it will be there.
The optimism in England has died down since the 2010 World Cup. A crushing 4-1 defeat to bitter rivals Germany will do that to you. But there are still those who keep the faith.
Instead of just overt confidence, however, it now takes many forms. The first normally follows "but" in a sentence."
"There's no way we are going to win it, but you never know." That will be followed by a short argument about some of the talented players England still possess.
The second is rare, but over-confidence still crops up every now and then. Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright demonstrated it perfectly on BBC Radio 5 Live when he said he feels England will get to the semi-finals. This is annoying because it is never followed by any argument.
Finally, we have the newest form, and it is all Roy Hodgson's fault. When the preliminary England squad was announced it included some young, in-form players. Ross Barkley, Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana, for example. It was refreshing, but that is about it.
Unfortunately the announcement excited some fans a bit too much. It led to arguments about youth being fearless, hungry and in form, "so we could get to the quarter-finals, or even the semi-finals."
Feelings toward the optimists are a mix between admiration and pity. They will be the worst affected when the inevitable happens, and all you can do is give them a pat on the back.
The 'I Told You So' Brigade
On the opposite end of the spectrum to the optimists is the "I told you so brigade." These do not support England, and they spend the entire buildup to the World Cup reminding everyone England have no chance.
They also support other nations against England because a player from their club plays for the opposition, so they can revel in the glory of England losing.
You can feel them waiting for the moment England is knocked out. The period between the World Cup draw and the opening ceremony has been spent telling everyone England do not have a chance for this very moment. The moment they say "I told you so."
It is bad enough for those who knew England would not get far but remained silent; it is even worst for the poor believers.
But all the years of smugness and dislike of England may one day come back to bite them. The years of pain for the optimists and supporters maybe repaid with one day of glory. What will the "I told you so brigade" do then?
When one is surrounded by optimistic England fans, one can sometimes experience a sudden surge of optimism before kick-off.
You have told yourself so many times England have not got a chance, but when the whistle blows for the start of the game the optimism creeps in. Even the most realistic England fan will suddenly think "I know we're against Germany, but what if..."
Despite all the efforts to guard against such ridiculous notions, your defence fails you at the worst possible time.
It makes the outspoken optimists more annoying because it is their arguments breaking you down, and it makes you want to stick the "I told you so brigade" in a cupboard because they will not shut up about England's lack of technical ability.
Then, when England crashes out again, it makes the pain even greater.
Pubs in England are the focal point of football during the World Cup. The interior and exterior are decorated with flags for the hundreds of fans who cram in to watch England play.
It is just a bit of fun and takes a fair amount of effort from owners to put it together, but in England the fun does not last long.
The only thing worst than drowning your sorrows following England's World Cup exit while a St George's flag dangles in front of your face is the constant reminder of failure when you return to the pub during the following weeks because the decorations remain up.
England fans are a passionate bunch, but passion can lead to irrational behaviour. The saddest part is some corners of the media in England also behave irrationally.
In the aftermath of England's Euro 2004 exit at the quarter-final stage to hosts Portugal, Swiss referee Urs Meier had to go into hiding following a tabloid campaign and a barrage of abuse.
Meier had disallowed a late Sol Campbell goal, which would have surely sent England to the semi-finals. The country was in outrage, but over what? The goal was rightly disallowed.
Then, in the 2006 World Cup, England was knocked out again by Portugal in the quarter-final. During that game Wayne Rooney was sent off and the media and much of England blamed Cristiano Ronaldo because of an infamous wink to his bench.
Was it the wink that got Rooney the red card? No. The Manchester United striker was sent off because he stomped on Ricardo Carvalho's you-know-whats.
The furor lasts for weeks, sometimes months, and the reimagined history crops up with every tournament.
Maybe Next Time...
No matter what happens this tournament, the same will happen in two years at the Euros and in four years at the next World Cup.
But there is still an illogical belief maybe next time England will finally "bring football home." That is the worst part. The worst part is knowing you will be going through it all again, with the same result.
Unless England win a tournament, their participation will always be a source of woe. It is insanity.