Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Nation Expects

They say it’s meant to feel a bit better in the morning, but frankly waking up this morning it feels the same as last night, just minus the anger.

you can’t ignore it; England we’re very poor. I would swear, but I try to be professional on this. They lacked creation, invention, desire and inspiration. The miss-placed passes, the wayward shots and the lack of creating anything made it so I’d rather watch re-runs of Burnley’s away games from last season, than watch our national team fail quite miserably at getting past Algeria. But I don’t get it. No one does. I can’t fathom an explanation and to why the eleven greatest players in England couldn’t outplay an Algerian side which, no offence, is made up of players we have never heard of, bar two or three. I refuse to believe the ‘eleven talented individuals can’t play as a team’ tag that people throw around after big teams lose is the reason, because it’s not: it’s nonsense. We can play as a team, because we’ve done it before. Anyone that says otherwise clearly doesn’t know much about our national team. But last night there was something that didn’t click; nothing worked, and it left the whole of England trying to figure out exactly why we just weren’t good enough.

We had the bulk of the possession in the second half, the most shots on goal and on target. But when we were on the ball we just seemed to be running around in circles. What really summed it up for me was in the later stages of the second half; the ball landed in front of Gareth Barry and Steven Gerrard - they both looked at each other as if you say “Take it” - they both seemed reluctant to take the ball and drive forward. Two of England’s best players, one being our captain, and neither of them wanted to take the ball on. It was really very strange.

Expectation is the one big thing that has been put on these players shoulders, and it seems to be weighing them down. But after the first game and the Green mistake, there seems to be just pressure on the players to just get through to the knock out stages; rather than expecting us to just get through the group and win all our matches along the way, we’re not at a stage where we’re two games down and only have two points on the board. It’s turned from expectation of “no worries, we’ll get through just fine’ to the pressure of “you have to win. You just have to.” And the pressure of this seems to be getting to them too much.

But why? They’re all premier league players; most have played in the champions league and in premier league title-deciding fixtures. They’ve all dealt with this kind of pressure before, and so have other teams. Argentina; they have a lot of pressure to perform because their nation has had this same expectrion heaped on them; why? Because of one man: Messi. And already without scoring, and having only played two games, he’s lived up to his expectation; he’s been great. Rooney; same pressure, same expectation, but same results? No. Not that I’m singling Rooney out. They all under-performed and lacked creation last night. But for a man with so much talent, in both games he’s looked surprisingly slow, and nothing has gone right for him; no ball has fell to him how he’d want it to.

After being labelled potential World Cup winners, it’s strange to see England playing like this. The saddest thing was probably watching David Beckham on the sideline, a look of frustration and willingness on his face. He looked tired, fed up, and at one point, like he just wanted to grab a kit and run on the pitch and play. That’s who we were missing last night: someone that can change a game; someone that can lead us; someone that can pick a pass over 40 yards and not get it wrong; someone who can put a pin-point cross in; someone who can take corners that will actually beat the first man. We miss him. But there’s nothing we can do about it; the rest of the players have to step up now.

Fact is, we know we can do it. We know we can perform much better than this. I can’t tell you why it’s not working, I’m not sure Capello can either. The only thing we know is that there’s eleven men out there on that field, who are world-class players, but who aren’t performing on the big stage.

Despite everything that happened yesterday, we still believe. Most of us anyway. Years of supporting England tells you we always do it the hard way, so on Wednesday, we know you can do it. We know you can get the three points you need to get into the knock-out stages. Ironically, we might not finish top of the ‘England Algeria Slovenia Yanks’ group, but getting out of it is all that matters.

So yes, a nation expects. And on Wednesday, it expects you to do more.

Come on England

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