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World Cup 2010: England's 10 Stages of Elimination from the World Cup

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World Cup 2010: England's 10 Stages of Elimination from the World Cup

Some things are written in stone. Just as the World Cup comes around every four years, you can be guaranteed that England will begin every tournament convinced that they will win…

As anyone who watches English football will testify, rarely does an international match go by without a mention of the World Cup-winning year of 1966, when the Three Lions lifted the famous trophy for the only time.

It is something they are desperate to repeat, but have rarely come close, save in 1990 when they reached the Semi-Finals, only to exit to their old enemy Germany on penalties.

1990 is a time that English fans like to remember with misty eyes, but when you look back at their run in the tournament, it is worth remembering that England only beat one team in that tournament during 90 minutes, and that was an abject performance against Egypt.

But they got there, and that is all that counts. It was the closest they have come to rewriting history as being the only one-hit wonders in the World Cup winners list.

Although England have competed in 13 of the 19 World Cups, ranging from their first appearance in 1950 to their latest in South Africa, the land that invented football have repeated the same mistakes every time. Here we look at a few…

 

STAGE 1: PRE-WORLD CUP: WE’RE GOING TO WIN THE CUP…

Having qualified, England’s players, managers, and media, all convince themselves that they will win the tournament.

Never mind that they may not have qualified for the most recent competitions, nor that they have been well beaten in a recent friendly by one of the game's powerhouses.

The blinkers will come down and England is guaranteed to succeed…

 

STAGE 2: ENGLAND IS NOT FIT ENOUGH AND DON’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY IN BIG TOURNAMENTS

England simply does not have tournament mentality.

They don’t know how to rest in games, let the ball do work. They play every tournament game like a 100 mph Premiership match, use too many long balls and chase too many lost causes.

This impacts upon the fitness of the team.

In every World Cup ever played, most goals are scored in the second half of a match.

During England’s last five major tournaments, they scored 22 of their 35 goals in the first half of a match, and in the 2002 World Cup, they did not score a single goal in the second half of a match. Fitness…

 

STAGE 3: ENGLAND WILL START BADLY, PLAY WELL, AND BADLY AGAIN…

With the weight of massive expectation and every waking moment counting down to their first game, England are almost guaranteed to deceive.

Take last week's game against the USA as a prime example.

Having gone through qualification with one of the best records in football, Fabio Capello turned everything on its head and chose to play route one.

England’s display was so bad that greats like Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff were moved to discuss Capello’s backwards tactics and playing style and his move away from the tactics that stood him so well in qualification.

In 1990, when England reached the Semi Finals, they played horrendously in the opening game against Ireland. Following that display, their media claimed that Bobby Robson’s side would do well to make any impact in the group.

Their next match against Holland was arguably their best performance of the tournament, hence the new claims that they could then lift the trophy…

Then they played Egypt; the less said, the better.

This same pattern can be traced through almost every World Cup…

 

STAGE 4: ENGLAND ARE GUARANTEED TO MEET AN OLD ENEMY

The list is endless…

Germany, France, USA, Argentina, USA…and a whole lot more.

Being the side that everyone loves to hate in international football, England have a multitude of old enemies.

Right from their very first appearance in a World Cup in 1950, when they were beaten 1-0 by the part-time USA, to their latest performance where they were beaten 1-1 by the USA, England have had ample chances to build up rivalries with opponents.

All too often, it descends into a jingoistic embarrassment; think Argentina in 1986 when the Falklands Islands were dredged across the back pages, think Italia 1990 and Germany, where players were portrayed wearing helmets in the trenches.

As if the Germans needed any extra motivation…

 

STAGE 5: ENGLAND’S TACTICS ARE QUESTIONED

Being one of the powers in domestic football, it is only natural that England’s team and players are questioned on their tactical acumen.

Tactics are something that England suffers a huge inferiority complex with.

Going all the way back to 1950 when they were fully expected to win the World Cup, to 1966 when Alf Ramsey basically became the Godfather of 4-4-2, to every tournament since, tactics are questioned.

It all goes back to England forgetting what they are good at (honesty, courage, determination, tenacity, and energy), to them wanting to play like the Italians and tactically win games by shutting up shop.

There is no great secret to tactics; frankly, they are overrated. Good players will always find a way to subvert either their own managers' stifling tactics or the opponents'.

The real secret, if you can call it that, is finding 11 honest players, and playing them in their proper positions.

Players who are not self indulgent, players who will put the team first every time, players who will never give up. Look back at England’s 1966 squad, and you’ll find such a team.

 

STAGE 6: SOMETHING HAPPENS THAT COULDN’T HAPPEN TO ANYONE ELSE…

1950: Fluky Joe Gaetjens…

1954: Bloody Uruguay…

1958: Munich Air Disaster…

1962: Unbelievable Garrincha…

1966: Wooooooooooooo...

1970: Bobby Moore Arrested…

1982: Too Many Injured Stars…

1986: Hand of God…

1990: Typical Germans…

1998: Beckham Sent Off…

2002: Fluky Ronaldinho…

2006: Rooney Sent Off Amid Some Winking…

2010: Bloody Robert Green…

Everyone knows those foreign lads cheat…

 

STAGE 7: ENGLAND ARE KNOCKED OUT

One win from 13 attempts would suggest that England will usually be knocked out without lifting the trophy.

If you look back at their international statistics over the years, they win around 66 percent of their matches.

That has risen to 70 percent, twice.

Once in 1966…and more recently under Fabio Capello…

 

STAGE 8: SCAPEGOATS ARE FOUND

Without drawing up another list, it is easy to find the scapegoats for England’s early elimination from the World Cup.

David Beckham was pilloried after his sending off in 1998, likewise Wayne Rooney and Ray Wilkins in 2006 and 1986, respectively. Ronaldinho’s “fluke” was to blame in 2002.

Alf Ramsey was forced to fall on his sword following defeat to West Germany in 1970 after he was blamed for the early substitution of Bobby Charlton.

Ironically, Bobby Robson was hounded for his eight years as England manager, and having brought England to the Semi’s in 1990, he was almost sainted in his absence. He resigned after the tournament…

The Premiership will always get a mention.

Usually you hear the terms “too many matches,” “too many foreigners,” “too many games at a high tempo,, “the EPL don’t invest enough in youth development,” “winter break,” “only 34 percent of EPL players are English,” etc.

You can already see the scapegoats being lined up now…

No, I don’t mean Rob Green, although any guy who gets paid a vast amount not to make mistakes deserves everything he gets if he makes a schoolboy error.

Fabio Capello will be the scapegoat.

Long ball tactics, bringing injured players, playing sick players, playing athletes who think they’re footballers…

If England crash out, expect Fabio to go with them.

 

STAGE 9: ENGLAND ARE OUT, WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN…

Make no bones about it, England are one of the best teams in the world. They might be short on the quality needed to win a major tournament, but when all is said and done, they perform about as well as you would expect a country of their size to perform.

It always takes a good team to knock them out, and after elimination papers, fans, and pundits alike will wonder “Would England have beaten them, if…”

 

STAGE 10: NORMAL SERVICE RESUMES, WE’LL WIN THE WORLD CUP NEXT TIME…

The king is dead; long live the king. With the World Cup ending and the new Champions being crowned, England and her fans will look forward to the next tournament.

The European Championships will come and go, and the scars of last time's elimination will be nothing but faded lines, and as Qualification begins again, the green shoot of eternal optimism will rise.

England will surely win the World Cup next time…

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