A couple of weeks ago the England football team completed a rout of the opposition in their qualifying group for the UEFA European finals to be held next June and July in ten cities in France between the twenty-four successful teams. Home and away, England won ten out of ten – that is a commendable performance, isn’t it by anybody’s standards? Consequently, the know-all football pundits of the press and television have galvanised true supporters’ expectations that England will at last perform at a major international tournament. Despite England’s recent abysmal show in the Euro 2012 Championship competition (co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine), and their even more disastrous and dire ‘worst performance ever at the Finals’ in the Rio World Cup last year, these highly paid analysts pontificate about potential success being on the horizon. The truth of the matter is though that we have a snowball in hell’s chance of doing really well, do we? We are simply not good enough, don’t have any of the world class players, and can’t really compete on the international stage when it counts. Why should we delude ourselves? No, all we need to do is to do our very best and put in a spirited performance to be proud of, surely? You never know we might even get lucky and get the rub of the green?
England started its qualifying campaign just over a year ago. We were fully expected to come through because we ended up in an easy group, with only one other fancied country. We had to play Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino – their World football rankings were 12, 48, 87, 94, 181 and true to form they finished in that order behind England ranked 17. Beating the Swiss twice was indeed an impressive result, but the other wins (some very unimpressive) were small beer, wasn’t it?
In two and three weeks time, England play international ‘friendlies’ against Spain (the title holder) and France – they are ranked 6 and 22 respectively (France’s ranking is unrealistically low because they as hosts they haven’t been involved in the qualification competition – they normally are in the top 10) – England have now moved-up to 10th place (2 behind Wales!). Will those games tell us anything about England’s chances in the Finals? No not really. If we win we can assume nothing as these are simply practice games, but if we lose it doesn’t auger well, does it as we are supposed to now have a settled established team?
A significant outcome of England’s successful qualifying campaign is that they have been ‘seeded’ into the pot with other predicted top teams (so Germany, Spain, England, Portugal, Belgium, France), so we cannot end up playing them at the group stage – the draw to select the three countries we WILL be playing is to take place in early December. We should expect to progress at least to the last sixteen if not the quarter finals, but will we? There are some dangerous ‘ranked’ opponents that England might find in their group – like the Swiss 12, Dutch 14, Czechs 15, Croatians 16, Italians 17, Ukrainians 24, Russians 26, Danes 28, Bosnians 30, and the Hungarians 33, to identify the top ten. If we face a couple of those, we could easily be out early, couldn’t we?
Many do not have much confidence in our Football Association’s appointed current manager Roy Hodgson, who oversaw a poor performance at Euro 2012 and stupidly raised expectations by telling us naively before the World Cup last year that we were going to win it – fat chance, eh? If we fail again in France next year, you can be sure that the FA will find yet another loser to run our National team at great expense.
Hodgson cannot be relied on to select the right players or the fit ones for the squad nor even play the best team – he is certain though to play his selected captain Wayne Rooney who many (but not all) in the know say is in decline and is no longer worthy of his place, and a player who’s history in an England shirt has been marred by inadequate performances at major tournaments. Hodgson has capped thirty-three players in the qualifying ten games – hardly a settled team, eh? He can select by next June only 23 players (to include 3 goalkeepers) for his squad to play in France. The last time the Manager picked a squad he chose youth over experience leaving class players behind – with disastrous results. We will see, wont we?
[When you buy your England flag next summer to support the team, perhaps save money and make do with a degradable one?]