If there is one prediction that no English football fan will refrain from, it’s the inevitable ‘premature exit’ of the England team from the 2018 World Cup.
On June 18 when the ‘anxious’ squad steps on to the field, to take on a ‘tricky’ Tunisia, the players will have a lot more to worry about, than, of course, their individual performance and as a unit. The stakes will get higher ten days later on June 28, when they face an in-form Belgium, pegged to be one of the favourites in the tournament.
If they progress from the group stage, they may run into Colombia. And then… for the Three Lions, the build-up is always hopeful, and the goodbye always tragic, if not sour (Penalties, anyone?). The dissectors of England’s dismal show have been sounding rather repetitive: We were never good enough. We need a brilliant foreign tactician. The Premiership desperately needs a winter break. The report is accurate, but there are no lessons learned. And then, there’s the unrelenting criticism when things don’t work out.
Recently, new England captain Harry Kane dwelt on the “weak mentality” of the fans after being hounded in social media circles. “It is easier these days to maybe banter England players or take the mick out of them, if we don’t do well in the World Cup it’s, ‘Oh we told you so’.”
At his presentation, the subject came up again. “Our mentality (is), we’re a bit afraid to say we want to win stuff, because we’re afraid of the fans’ or media’s reaction. We go into our shells. I want us not to be afraid to say that we want to win it.”
Maybe it’s just false bravado from Captain Kane, but after the Euro when the early-enough exit did not surprise anyone, these twenty-somethings are two years older and wiser. Miracles can happen. The World Cup surprises you! Doesn’t it?
Not when it’s England. You could say the squad would be overachieving if they manage to make the quarters. Stick your neck out, folks…
Big teams win the Big One. And let’s face it, England are not ‘Big’. One trophy from 1966 does not make them so. It is only our season-long fascination with the English Premiership, and its foreign brigade, a billion-plus turnover that brings forth these delusions of grandeur.
While no one will expect much from Harry & Co, and let us not forget understated manager Gareth Southgate, England have no burden apart from the fact the players come from the most lucrative league and the birthplace of football and probably, a nation which still believes it has a psychological superiority over the world. Their story, truly history.
Yet, they seem bogged down by expectations and fear. Hence, Kane’s first interview as captain started on the defensive. The English media has already labelled him as a leader, because of his chosen words and exhortation, the call to be believers.