World Cup 2014: Hodgson Has Lowered Expectations Too Far for England

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

England's manager Roy Hodgson looks on before the group D World Cup soccer match between Costa Rica and England at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

And so, England exit the 2014 World Cup not with a bang, not with a crash of incompetence, not even really with a whimper because that would at least imply some sort of emotion, but rather with a sort of shrug.

A 0-0 draw against Costa Rica was perhaps the most fitting way for England to bow out, having played reasonably well but failed to deliver the results that would extend their stay in Brazil.

Jon Super/Associated Press

There are flaws in this England team which are relatively obvious, and while the reaction of some sections of the press has been perhaps predictably over the top (just one example being the Sun describing FA chief Greg Dyke reading a book called Death In Brazil as a 'gaffe' and a 'PR disaster'), the sense remains that the England football team just isn't something to get terribly excited about anymore.

Roy Hodgson's job is secure, having received assurances that he will be in charge beyond this summer, and if for no other reason than there isn't an obvious alternative to him, it seems fair enough that he shall stay in place.

However, Hodgson is perhaps lucky that Luis Suarez's latest antics have taken attention away from perhaps not his team's performance, but his comments after the game.

Hodgson said, as quoted by Sky

I thought we were unlucky not to win this game, but I’m pleased to have given the fans something to cheer...

We restricted a team that has beaten Italy and Uruguay and topped the group and restricted them to almost no chances.

I thought we dominated in midfield, we outplayed them in that area, we created chances, and the only thing didn’t do unfortunately was to take them, and that’s a great disappointment.

Hodgson seems like a positive character, and in general there is little wrong with looking for the positives in a bad situation, but his comments smacked of a man who has made lowering expectations an art-form.

While English fans are generally more realistic about their team's chances these days, and few held even the remotest hope that they would win the World Cup in Brazil, surely they can expect something better than being happy with a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica?

And not just Costa Rica. This was a Costa Rica side who had nothing to play for, their place in the second phase already secured, and who were essentially going through the motions as they waited to see whom they would play next.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Of course, they have surprised everyone at the World Cup, defeating both Italy and Uruguay to take top spot in a group in which they were the designated whipping boys, but they are still a limited side. Even with the changes made by Hodgson, England should have had the talent and nous to beat them.

It is surely not the view of an entitled fan to think that a 0-0 draw against the team ranked 28 in the world before the tournament (England were 10th) is not 'something to cheer'?

If Hodgson's plan is to lower expectations so much that even the smallest success is worth celebrating, then he is doing well, but for how much longer will England fans accept this lowering of the bar?