The iconic image of Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 is burned into the mind of every self-respecting English football fan. It represented the peak of English football; a deserved triumph for the creators (and in that year, perfectionists) of the game.
It was a mark that stood England up among the World’s elite, where we would stay forever and a day…
Truth is, England haven’t recovered since that fateful day at Wembley, and despite an over-reaching media and a “We’ll win the next one” mentality, it doesn’t look like we’ll be heading towards another World Cup or European Championship win anytime soon.
At the last World Cup, England were knocked out in the second round. Ghana and Paraguay both progressed, despite being ranked 32nd and 38th by FIFA. England, by comparison, are 5th.
Now, truth be told, England were playing a brilliant German side on the day (Paraguay faced off against Japan, and only then won on penalties; Ghana saw off the United States), and probably deserved to lose. However, the English’s disappointment was palpable, and many people felt let down by a loss in the quarter finals, especially after only finishing second in their group, missing out on top spot (England finished with 2 goals scored, as opposed to 1st place USA’s 4).
England struggled in the World Cup, finishing after 4 games with only 3 games scored (although I don’t need to tell you this – most English fans are well aware of the poor performance in South Africa).
Euro 2012 was, truth be told, a turning point for England. Many fans went in not thinking they were going to win the tournament, and the effect was devastating; they finished atop of their group, despite having a harder group than they faced in 2010 (The teams faced in 2010 had an average FIFA ranking of 30.3, compared to 25.3 in 2012). The squad had not changed an incredible amount since 2010; if anything, it had gotten (arguably) weaker.
What had changed?
The media stopped pretending like we could win the Euro’s, and the fans stopped believing it. They were no more “30 years of hurt” songs, and no interviews with English Internationals talking about how “this is our year”. Despite being ranked 8th heading into the 2010 World Cup and 7th heading into Euro 2012, no English fans truly expected to do well.
Only after a fantastic group stage and a place in the quarter-finals did English fans begin to believe; after that, they were doomed. A loss on penalties (of all bloody things) soon ensued, and so England were dumped out, but not without a moral victory; inspired performances showing us the best way to believe in success is to not believe at all.
This may not seem relevant, seeing as though Euro 2012 was several months ago, and the last World Cup 2 years ago, but with World Cup qualifiers being played already, it’s time to remind English fans to breathe. Yes, a tie against Poland may not be considered a fantastic result (Poland sit 60 places behind England in the notorious FIFA World Rankings), but are England supposed to be considered the 5th best team in the World? Probably not.
Allow me to take this moment to send a message to all the Englishmen and women: Keep calm, never hope for the best, and enjoy the quarter finals.
Written by Cormac O’Brien
Follow him on Twitter @obrienfootball
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