It was all set up. Six points out of six, a crowd of 90,000 passionate and expectant fans and coming off the back of a fabulous 4-1 win in Croatia. The opponents? Kazakhstan, who have never qualified for anything and were at Wembley to just play a bit part as England showed the world that they are back in the game.
Perfectly to plan
Well, if you look at the result, it all went perfectly to plan. England win 5-1 and move on to Belarus with nine points out of nine, eleven goals in three games and everything looking exciting and promising for the future. Or is it?
Wayne Rooney scored two goals and won the man of the match award. He looked every inch a world class striker and looked like the player we all thought he would be for England when he first burst onto the scene. Rio Ferdinand didn’t put a foot wrong and looked every inch a world class centre half and skipper and got the opening goal. Emile Heskey held the ball up, brought other players into the game and helped them score goals. Wouldn’t he be the best striker in the world if he could just score goals?
There were so many good things about England’s performance that I feel disloyal and a bit of a traitor to paint a less than rosy picture. The fact is that Ashley Cole made a terrible schoolboy error, Wes Brown and Matthew Upson will never be international class players, Gerrard and Lampard CAN NOT PLAY TOGETHER and Shaun Wright-Phillips is not a left winger!
Apart from that, I fancy England to win the world cup!!
So now England move on to Belarus on Wednesday evening and they will provide a much sterner test for Fabio Capello’s men than the hard working but limited players from Kazakhstan did.
Belarus have had a weekend off and they will be trying desperately to get Barcelona’s Alexander Hleb fit for the game. Draws with Germany, Finland and Argentina in their last three games before the qualifiers put them in a great frame of mind but a 1-0 defeat in Ukraine took the wind out of their sails a little. Having said that, Ukraine are a decent side and it took a ninety-fifth minute penalty to beat them.
Belarus bounced back from that defeat with a 3-1 win in Andorra and what they saw at Wembley in England’s game against Kazakhstan won’t have frightened them too much. There is no doubt that they will fancy their chances, but why should England be anything other than supremely confident after 4-1 and 5-1 wins?
Is it an English disease that we feel slightly pessimistic and worried after a 5-1 win? I think it must be. The first fifty-one minutes when we looked a little clueless and the sloppiness of the goal we gave away are the things that stay in the memory. Not the five goals and the good aspects of the performance that I discussed earlier.
We are top of the group for goodness sake and we should be celebrating. So why aren’t I?
Never won a thing
Maybe it is because I have been an England supporter for forty one years and I have never seen us win a thing. Maybe I just don’t allow myself to get excited or optimistic. Maybe I know we are not as good as the best teams in the world. Maybe I’m just a miserable bastard. I don’t know.
There are so many nationalities who should feel less excited than us English. The Austrians only managed a 1-1 draw in the Faroe Islands, Scotland failed to beat Norway, Sweden and Portugal failed to beat each other when they would both have been hopeful of a win. A 5-1 win isn’t a disaster is it?
There is no doubt that England can win in Belarus and there is also no doubt that a draw would be a satisfactory result. England are more than capable of getting the desired result on Wednesday and in fact, all English fans should be confident of doing so. So why aren’t we?
I’m not really sure why we are not optimistic. We have some of the best players in the world. Would Ferdinand, Cole, Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney get into most international sides? Yes they would. Would David James and Joe Cole be close to getting into most international sides? Yes they would.
Would Shaun Wright-Philips and Theo Walcott be regarded as exciting options in most countries? Yes. OK, Matthew Upson might not challenge for a place in many national sides but John Terry sure would!
In other words, England have nine fine players to be in their first eleven. Wes Brown might not be everyone’s choice as right back but he did win the Premier League and Champions League double playing there last season. As previously discussed, if he could only score goals, Emile Heskey would be an automatic choice for any country.
If England lined up as James, Brown, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Walcott, Gerrard, Lampard, Wright-Phillips, Heskey, Rooney, would anyone bet against them winning something? OK, everyone would because England don’t win things. Would any country pick too many of their own players against these individuals? No, they wouldn’t.
So, to Belarus. Are we confident and pretty sure of a victory? No we’re not. We should be but we aren’t. I can’t explain why, but we’re not.
Come on England, get a professional win in Belarus and I’ll believe that the Fabio Capello revolution has truly arrived and the Italian can take us to where we haven’t been since 1966.
Win the world cup?
England to win the world cup? Two decent wins and it is possible. I have thought England would be there or thereabouts ten times so far in my life and the closest we have got is the 1990 tournament where we lost the semi-final on penalties to Germany.
Can we go one better this time? We’ll know a little more after Wednesday.
Come on England! Engerland, Engerland, Engerland…