‘Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard.’
So goes the Coldplay lyric that encapsulates the thinking of a number of ‘big’ European sides at the 2010 World Cup. (A prize goes to the person who spots the other Coldplay reference in this blog.)
Only the Dutch have produced two performances that suggest they could win the tournament, and their first victory was not the most convincing either.
The Portuguese demolition of North Korea probably surprised Kim Jong-il, but that is it. Spain looked good against Honduras, but we have seen their imperfections already – they can be defeated.
While other continents watch their nations give spirited displays, European sides are left pointing the finger at one another as they try to determine the worst side. Obviously that unenviable title goes to France, much to the delight of the Irish.
What about England though? England’s distinctly average displays against the US and Algeria aren’t anything to get your knickers in a twist about. England scrape through every group they enter. Just when you write them off, they put on a display that pulls you from your depressed slouch to say: “We can do this.”
And England can. But England won’t.
That display will entitle England to play a team that has too much quality for them to handle and your hopes will be shattered. That has been the way that England have done things since I have followed football.
So, while I have complete faith that England will beat Slovenia on Wednesday and go through to the second round of the World Cup, they will not win it. This despair you now feel will soon be followed by the traditional pain we are used to. What do you prefer?
Don’t panic, the pain is coming.