Infant Land

England is like a country of five year olds screaming ‘I want, I want’.

Witness the transformation of the football team from a middling outfit who would make the quarter finals at best to a team now so expected to win the whole thing that it’s taken for granted that a small, apparently insignificant country like Croatia will be easily beaten.

It’s the familiar mentality of another instance of public mass hysteria of: “I want it, I think I’m entitled to it and think that if I believe in it hard enough then I’ll get it, no matter the practicalities and realities” (in the case of England that they’re indulging players who aren’t performing).

It’s also getting like Brexit in the way that anyone who presents a rational view based on the evidence (England have played some mediocre, cautious football, have had an exceptionally favourable draw and have been saved from elimination by the goalkeeper in at least one match, if not two) that it won’t be all straightforward is viewed as a heretic whose views will in some bizarre way undermine the team’s performance in Moscow.

I certainly want England to win — I’ve been to Wembley to watch them enough times (I think I saw Lingard’s debut) — but if they do I’m going to despair of the amateur part-time fan bullshit merchants in the media and elsewhere churning out unrealistic ra-ra hype for the next four days.

Pickford and Trippier Carry England

There’s a desperate need for a view on England v Sweden that’s less influenced by the colossal pile of BS spouted on the BBC yesterday by the overexcitable commentator and the ra-ra pundits (surely Klinsmann was whipped up by the mass hysteria?).

However, the facts are that Pickford made three outstanding saves and England never made the Swedish goalkeeper make a single one. Without Pickford England would have been 2-1 down immediately after scoring the second and could quite conceivably have lost.

Had Sweden levelled then surely Southgate would have had to end his indulgence of playing a striker who can’t score and bring on one that can (Rashford). Actually, I thought Sterling had a better game than his previous efforts – he made a few runs forward without losing the ball – but his hopeless hesitation when given several opportunities at the end of the first half was just embarrassing.

As for Henderson being the most indispensable player after Pickford, this is just Liverpool-loving bullshit. He’s a liability. There are three or four players in the England team who are being carried by the rest – Walker, Sterling, Henderson, Alli (for most of the time). Kane, Pickford, Trippier, Lingard and Maguire are the only ones who’ve played well. Young and Stones have been OK. (Without Trippier and Young’s excellent set-piece delivery England would have been out before now — and the pair make the 3-5-2 system work.)

That said, I’d rather England are facing Croatia than Russia. Like England, Croatia are a team that over-thinks, whereas Russia went fast and direct. I doubt our defence could cope with that.

England’s Penalty Neurosis

All credit to the players who put away the penalties (including Rashford who probably had most pressure as he’d been brought on specifically to score one) and to Pickford for a stunning save (and the one just at the end of normal time which was probably the save of the tournament but never got a replay).

However, all the reaction shows the collective neurosis and sense of paranoid victim hood that probably fuelled Brexit (i.e. the foreigners have always won because somehow it’s their fault for England’s own failings).

Like Murray winning Wimbledon, this penalty shootout will hopefully end the middle-class sense of injustice. In fact, you expect a certain element would have been happier to have been eliminated so they could pin the blame on the dirty, cheating foreigners, as has been the narrative for at least the last 45 years.

England were pretty dier (get it?) throughout most of the match. Kane was so deep he could have been Matic for Man Utd. Sterling was the only forward for much of the time and he was useless as ever (except for one run). Henderson was anonymous. Walker made the expected howling mistake. Alli was obviously injured (as he was during most of the Tunisia match). Is he such an egotist that he’s pushing himself forward to play?

About the only player who exceeded expectations, apart from Pickford, was Maguire.

The level of creativity in the team was also dire.

That said, if this bunch don’t beat Sweden, who are probably on a level with Watford in terms of individual players, then they’re a disgrace.

The point that’s so obvious about this World Cup that none of the pundits have realised it, is that with so many Premier League and Championship players in the other teams then England know all their opponents so much better than all other teams (apart from possibly Belgium) so they know how they match up against them. Stones, Walker and Sterling know they’ve played in a team on a level with supposed gods of football like Jesus (get it?) and Fernandinho and they know that Willian and Firmino play for teams who finished well below them in the league.

Yes, You Did Let Down the Nation

I’m no expert on rugby but it seemed pretty obvious to me that England were absolutely dire last night — neither possessing any organisation or any flair or imagination. The right hand literally didn’t seem to know what the left was doing, which isn’t surprising bearing in mind Lancaster’s indecisiveness and chopping and changing selection not just over the tournament but throughout his old tenure.

Lancaster seems to be something of a Moyes — unable to deal with players with any personality or individualism. Despite only really following the Six Nations and the autumn internationals ,I can remember far more players from years back (Moore, Johnson, the Underwoods, Dawson and many more) than I expect I’ll be able to remember of the current, faceless lot.
Woodward and Wilkinson were a disgrace as ITV pundits — more concerned with trying to head off the storm gathering towards their cronies than giving honest analysis to the people who pay them. Australia were in a different league — but that was always likely to be the case. England should have treated the Wales game like a knockout but they thought they were too clever for that.
Seems like the more expensive the public school they went to the more they choked under pressure. If your parents pay £30,000 a term for you to go to school, you’re not going to be motivated in the same way as a ginger kid from Langley however ostentatiously you sing the national anthem.
I’m genuinely sorry, not for the useless bunch of losers on the field, but for the fans who have paid a fortune for tickets and the licensees of the pubs for whom an England run might have made the difference between profit and loss. I’m not so sorry for all the bullshit marketers who came up with crap like ‘Wear the Rose’. I’m sure the players will be full of contrition but, fair or not when it’s a game of sport, their actions will have had a negative impact on thousands of people’s livelihoods.
No rugby types can give football fans a sanctimonious, hypocritical lecture now about failure. True the football team went out in the group stages but they played in a rainforest after a long season. The rugby team had home advantage and everything else in their favour (except possibly a draw but this only required them to beat a depleted home nations rival).

England v Germany

Under an hour and a half away from England against Germany — yet again.

I watched the Slovenia match in the place where the rules of association football were drawn up — the Freemason’s Arms in Long Acre, Covent Garden. It seems a bit of a football venue anyway — about half a dozen screens all around the walls — sensibly high up to ensure everyone has a good view.

The place was heaving to the rafters with ‘laads’ — as packed as terracing used to be at real matches and the floor was like a beer lake by the end of the match.

I patriotically consumed Shepherd Neame Spitfire throughout the game — that would be rather appropriate for this afternoon’s fixture given the opposition.

I shall have to watch today’s match virtually sober as I need to drive into London to see who, IMHO, is the greatest cultural figure of the 20th century — bar no-one: Paul McCartney. Ordinarily this would be the highlight of the day — or week — and it’s been expensive enough to get the tickets. It’s in Hyde Park so I guess by turning up late and, unfortunately, missing Elvis Costello and Crowded House, I’ll see a tiny little figure several hundred yards away and I’ll no doubt be too far away to see the screens properly. Nevertheless, he’s 68 now and how long is he going to be able to keep this up for? Even if his voice isn’t what it was, it’s going to be a very rare experience to hear some of the greatest pieces of music ever written performed live by their composer.

But to the match — I’m rather annoyed with the USA that they scored in the last minute to prevent us from playing last night. Anyway, I thought England were pretty useless in the closing stages of the Slovenia match — once Rooney had gone off. However, they’ve defended pretty well. The only goal conceded has been the error from Green. I think the Germans will find it hard to score against us. We can’t play badly indefinitely and I think the occasion will bring the best out of Rooney (if fit), Gerrard, Terry and, who knows, perhaps even Fat Frank?

I’m going for 1-0 to England — scored in the first half by Rooney — and then a second half of the Dunkirk spirit. If it gets to penalties I’ll be listening in the car so that will be agony.