A Look Ahead to the World Cup 2010: England's Aspirations

Art BraumenContributor IJune 30, 2009

The Confederations Cup has been a PR disaster for the 2010 South African World Cup organizers in many peoples eyes. During the two-week tournament, incidents, while not directly involving the event, had a major effect on the competition as a whole.

Egyptian & Brazilian players had their hotel rooms looted, two senior reporters were mugged in what was described as an "intense confrontation" by those involved, two sports promotional companies reported a robbery and a kidnap sparking a public outcry.

While fans, managers, players, TV groups, travel companies, sponsors and crucially FIFA's top dogs have all given their thumbs up, it's equally important to take a look at those few incidents where security was breached, despite the vote of confidence by the figureheads.

Deputy Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula said "Government has spent US$124-million on security. No country is going to do that if we are not serious about the safety of those attending games,” but unfortunately, it's the player room robberies that has received the most publicity.

Firstly, staff were blamed for taking cash (US $2,500) and valuables from the rooms but later, the controversial debate on whether prostitutes were present with the players has sparked even more discussions.

Is anybody really surprised? I will be totally amazed if there is not at least one serious incident during next years World Cup campaign. But then again, FIFA must have these issues regularly when choosing an economically poor region to host their next tournament.

When a community are faced with the rich pickings that the influx of thousands of football tourists present and given their personal situations, can anybody really blame them?

There are countries on the African continent that are eminently more suitable and able to stage this tournament, but FIFA in their "wisdom" chose South Africa. I will not speculate on the reasons for their choice, nor would I want to. I'm not against the decision of FIFA either as I'll be in attendance myself come next June, but what I am doing, is stating fact.

I'm interested to see how the World Cup will be coped with by these authorities but more importantly, how will England fare in it. I came to the conclusion that football fans must have the memory span of a goldfish.

They're at it again with all this talk of World Cup dreams. England have won all of their World Cup Qualifiers and while this is certainly a step in the right direction, can we just remember who those games were against? That does not count as international football.

Or victories. Well, not in my book.

I understand the premise behind all this nonsense, but please...Every major tournament that's rolled around—well the ones England actually managed to qualify for—has seen bold statements by everyone from the journalist, to the captain, to the sanctimonious old arm-chair supporter.

Instead all I seem to recall are penalties flying over the bar, Beckham's boot flying towards a young Argentinian fellow and Bryan Robson's shoulder flying out of it's socket for the third time in as many months.

What are these hyper-uppers doing? Playing the law of averages game? Say something enough times and eventually it will come true? Or building us up, just to have hopes and expectations dashed? Hype is a strange and wonderful phenomenon.

'You read it here first. Our exclusive story from 12 months ago. We predicted that England would win The World Cup!!'

I've just about had my fill.

If reading them eulogising about the brilliance of the latest England team—not highly dissimilar to the last England team, that I seem to remember everyone vilifying for not being quite good enough—isn't enough to turn your stomach you just have to read the stats.

Apparently Fabio Capello has a 79 percent win rate don't you know?
Alf Ramsay's was only 61 percent.

Now, not only is that statistic frighteningly uninteresting, it is also completely worthless. Statistics can tell you pretty much anything you want them too.

What they fail to tell you are the complete and utter pile of horse droppings that most of Capello's opposition have been-not exactly West Germany circa '66 or Brazil circa '70 have they?

According to my latest statistic...

Steve McClaren was a whole percentile better than his nearest rival at keeping raindrops from his bouffant, but that certainly didn't stop him sinking at the vital moments.

Let's stop and take a deep breath. Right now Fabio Capello is not the Messiah but I'd really like to believe that he's the man for the job and England have a team for success.

We should just keep our thoughts to ourselves until we see some sign of brilliance against stronger teams and I was hoping we'd see prospects to get excited about yesterday, even if it was an under 21 competition.

I tuned in to see England 0, Germany 4.

Pearce deserves mention as much as he deserves the new contract that he signed last week. In guiding England to this final, people guess he has done well enough, encouraging his team to play some decent possession football but it's the players that he had at his disposal that worries me.

Out of the squad of 23 that travelled, 13 are old enough to either A) Earn a call-up to the senior team or B) Never play in an England shirt again. The one thing which the F.A has got wrong is the little known fact that, after yesterdays Under 21's victory, the German manager will now go back and re-take his position as Under 19's coach, which allows him to work with players for the next two years until the following Under 21's tournament, instead of being given a bunch of new faces a few months before the competition.

Even though they can technically say they are second best in Europe, I thought their semi-final display was shambolic. They let Sweden play in the second half and threw away a three-nil lead only to scrape by on penalties.

Equally shambolic is the not-so-one-off occasion where Pearce has lost the plot on the touchline and I'd agree with you in thinking that his actions of yesterday will cause the FA more embarrassment than the humiliating scoreline the players received.

Walcott, a senior level regular, just didn't perform, it's that simple, although picking out a great days work would be difficult, both for club or country, after his injury five months ago. Nevertheless, he and the other three or four familiar faces making appearances in the senior setup would have been looked at in great detail.

The problems between Theo Walcott and manager have been well documented and the statement from Pearce giving an insight that it would not be in his best interests to have a falling out with a player who he'll be working with for the next 15 years didn't help either as gossip that, either he believed he'd be Arsene Wenger's successor or the next senior England manager were thrown around, both of which is more sci-fi than non-fiction in my mind.

My real hope for this competition was to see what the future had in store, disregarding the household names mentioned. I wanted to see what new up-and-comers would shine and give hope but the positions where the senior team are lacking aren't about to be addressed by anyone in the Under 21's squad before 2010.

Ironically, Under 21's Mesut Ozil, the German play-maker who stood out, is exactly what Fabio Capello needs right now in the seniors. The Germans have now won Under 17's, Under 19's and Under 21's this year which says a lot about their nations footballing future; and by extension, England's.

Naturally, the headlines throughout the qualifiers will get me reading and warmed up about 2010, but until I see some hard and fast evidence my memory is definitely spanning more than a couple of seconds.


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