It was tempting fate wasn't it? As soon as the groups were drawn the whole country was planning the knock-out stages and beyond, because surely we could beat everyone in that group; because surely England could finish top of Group C without even breaking sweat. Expectation gets the better of us sometimes, and making your expectations too high really comes back to bite you. And it did with England.
We didn’t finish top of the group. But we qualified, eventually. We did nearly finish top; about thirty seconds away from us finishing first actually; but a late USA goal not only made us slip down to second, but eliminated Slovenia from the competition, and from qualifying in second place.
Going into the game against Slovenia we were defiantly out of our comfort zone. The previous two games we had played below par, which was strange for a team of England’s stature and ability, and the fact we had to win to go through put England in a position they weren’t used to being in, let alone being comfortable in. A different England turned up on Wednesday afternoon, or should I say the England that we used to know; fire in the belly, body on the line type of play was displayed throughout the game against Slovenia. And we won. 1-0. It should’ve been more, it really should’ve; but in the situation we were in, we just wanted the win, It was the most important thing and nothing else mattered as long as we picked up our first three points, for the passage to the next round and to the knock-out stages.
In a way, even though this is a team we wouldn’t of necessarily liked to play in the knock out stages, it’s good that we’ve been handed a team such as Germany - because we step up when we play bigger and better teams. We rise to the occasion, more so that we would’ve done if he had finished first and had to play Ghana. No disrespect to Ghana when saying that; they did brilliant in the group stages and the USA will have a tough game against them. But the fact that we have so much history with Germany, and that they are a more technically gifted team, England will want to win more than ever. And like they say, to be the best you have to beat the best; and Germany certainly fall into that category.
There’s a definite air of confidence about Sunday’s game, and while the likes of Scotland and Ireland are wetting themselves waiting for Germany to beat us, the whole of England is not heaping the expectation upon England like before, but heaping the support on them instead. Instead having the ‘we’re going to win!’ attitude that turned on us quite violently during the group stages, we now have the ‘come on England, we know you can do it’ type of attitude - more support than pressure, and it could just help England onto victory.
I don’t think it will be another 1-5, although that would be more than special. I think it will be a close encounter between two brilliant teams of twenty-two gifted footballers. Nothing more can be expected from England than a good performance; the World Cup is the best competition in the world, but it’s also the most unpredictable: who would’ve predicted Italy, the reigning champions, would be knocked out at the group stages? Finish last in their group? Who would’ve thought Spain would lose to Switzerland? No one. The fact that any team can beat anyone on their day makes it so exciting, Lets just hope it’s England’s day.