2010 FIFA World Cup: England Expects: Do We Ask Too Much?
Isn't it remarkable what a change of opinion three points can achieve?
Following the Algeria game, the audible boos aimed at the England team were supported by many of us at home; we had, after all, just witnessed one of the worst England performances of recent years.
A few days on, one hard-fought victory against Slovenia later, England are much improved and of course the Germans will be knocked aside as the English advance deep into the tournament.
Where have the reservations gone? A scrappy 1-0 win over the team one place over Israel in the official FIFA world standings and there are sections of England fans left content.
Do not misunderstand me, England's performance against Slovenia was an improvement over the Algerian game, but the Algerian game could barely have been worse.
Against Slovenia, makeshift left winger Steven Gerrard was much improved in his wide role, and Milner was back on a level of form resembling his league form.
Lampard was quiet, Glen Johnson's defensive duties were largely ignored, and he was lucky to avoid two bookings for rash tackles, and will the real Wayne Rooney please stand up?
England also survived with a couple of brave last-ditch tackles from Johnson and Terry while Upson's sliding tackle in the box was possibly the tackle of the tournament.
While these heroics are testament to the defence's heart, we might equally ask why we are reduced to last-ditch tackles against the 25th-best team in the world.
Where the Slovenians failed, it is more than likely more clinical strikers will not.
The English fans' mentality does not seem to allow a middle ground. We are awful or world beaters, no matter who we lose to or whom we beat.
Allow me to offer a middle position. England are a decent team, probably fairly accurately ranked eighth by FIFA, with a few outstanding players who on a good day are capable of changing a game single-handedly.
But ultimately, the team is slightly deficient in the technical aspects of the game, most notably patient passing.
These deficiencies can sometimes be overcome by sheer hard-nosed enthusiasm, but against the very best teams England struggle, because you cannot win a game when you cannot keep hold of the ball.
Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and sometimes Germany hold the ball for an age, passing forwards backwards and side to side, patiently waiting to slip in a striker or use a midfielders run to great effect.
If England could gain this technique rather than a gung-ho approach based around moving everything forwards as quickly as possible than maybe they too could join the pantheon of great footballing teams.
They certainly have the players, but unfortunately, with many of them reaching the twilights of their careers, England must look to a future generation.
The England-Germany game could truly go either way, and perhaps should England win, then this article might be void.
But perhaps an England loss might be of long-term use, painful as it might be in the short term.
England's troubles in the group stages were not unique to this tournament because the gap between international teams is closing rapidly.
Germany look set for a bright future after their last-gasp loss at the last World Cup having recognised the importance of youth and technique.
The sooner England realise this the better, or we can look forward to several more make-or-break games at tournaments without having left our group.
Is this a realistic appraisal or am I just a pessimist? Let me know.
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