So Far, So Good – World Cup 2014

It’s finally upon us. After what seems like an interminable wait World Cup 2014 kicks off in Brazil in just a matter of hours. There’s barely enough time to man up and take some home truths on the chin before the shindig gets underway so let’s get it done now. England aren’t going to win. There are myriad reasons for this, the main one being that we’re rubbish. We’ll be embarrassed by the clod hopping dinosaurs wearing the three lions. It’ll be a relief when we’re knocked out and can settle down to watch the proper teams get on with it. Come next August, when the proper footy starts up again, no one will give a toss anyway.

2014BrazilWorldCup

Such logic is won on the back of hard reality for England supporters. We’ve seen too much garbage in the past, particularly since the turn of the millennium, and we won’t fall any more for anyone upping the hype.

That said, despite claims from the other home nations that the English always ‘expect’ the team to triumph, it seems to me that we don’t. Not really. It’s merely a stick the Scots, Welsh and Irish beat us with to tarry in with their notion of us being arrogant. There’s a difference between flying Saint George’s flags and supporting the lads and actually expecting them to come home with the bacon. Frankly, you’d want your head examined if you seriously fancied us to become the first European team ever to win the trophy in South America. No, it’s a far safer bet to accept ourselves for the dross we are than allow ourselves to get carried away too much.

Roy Hodgson

But, with apologies to our Celtic cousins, I detect a potential shifting of the sands this time round. Perhaps we’re not as bad now as we’ve been in the recent past. No I don’t think we’re going to win the World Cup but I do admire manager Roy Hodgson’s belligerent “why not?” stance when asked about the possibility. If there’s one thing a football supporter hates to hear from his team’s manager it’s the sound of defeatism. What kind of rallying call would “we’re hoping to squeeze out of the group and we’ll see what happens from there” be? During his time in charge at Liverpool Hodgson was criticised by Reds’ supporters for that very thing. They didn’t want to hear the gaffer kow-towing to Sir Alex, keeping fingers crossed for a draw at Birmingham, or hoping to finish in the top six. Talk the talk then walk the walk should be the order of the day if you have aspirations.

For the record it should be noted the World Cup isn’t necessarily won by the world’s best team. It’s not even a given that the winner is the team that plays the best football. It’s a cup competition, and we’ve all watched football long enough to know what can happen. There are enough examples of unfancied national teams who blitzed a tournament unexpectedly to give England fans hope.

AdamLallana

Pretty much all the exciting young talents touted by media and fans alike during the spring have been included in the squad. In selecting Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson Hodgson has made a bold statement of intent. Will he play them though? Well, the indications are that most of them will get some game time (though Shaw, at 18 years old, will probably remain a firm understudy for Leighton Baines).

We also have a squad devoid of cliques; no WAGS tottering all over the tabloids; and no star players shoehorned into the squad despite six weeks of injury lay off with broken metatarsals. Yes, I’m aware it hasn’t actually got going yet but so far, so good.

This tournament may well mark a sea change in the way Hodgson is perceived. The conservative old duffer often found scrabbling around with mid-table teams (and yes Liverpool, that’s what you were) may be a skewed image. Club and international management are entirely different things and Hodgson has shown before, with Switzerland, that he understands the game well at this level. In 1992 he achieved the staggering feat of lifting the Swiss to number three in the FIFA world rankings. Sure, we can debate the merits of that one, but even so, it’s an impressive stat to have on the CV.

Sadly, football fans know only too well it’s the hope that kills. For England fans recent reality checks have at least lowered the bar of expectancy. A base level of requirement is to see some kind of cohesive unit out on the pitch, an eleven that actually looks like they’re all on the same page, trying to do the same thing. That’d be a welcome improvement on past tournaments. The European Championship finals in Poland and Ukraine two years ago, Hodgson’s first tournament in charge, showed glimpses of this unity. It was an encouraging start. Any sort of further improvement will be most welcomed.

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