England were very much as England were expected to be; relatively solid and disciplined, fairly uncreative and generally hard-working. They also profited from good fortune on a number of occasions - the Swedish goalie choosing to fall over rather than save Walcott's shot, the byline referee proving himself utterly redundant in failing to achieve the specific role for which he exists against Ukraine, and Italy apparently having watched an 'Art of Finishing' video by the offspring of Emile Heskey and Andy Carroll.
Despite the temporary and somewhat diluted joy of winning the group, the whole tournament had a decidedly resigned feel to it for an English fan. Admittedly, there will be some of you reading this who should hang their heads in shame because, despite my best warnings, you allowed yourselves to believe. One such regular reader (an assumption grounded on absolutely zero evidence), Sir Bobby Charlton, appears to have allowed the inhalation of some Olympic fumes to cloud his rational judgement.
But I trust the majority of you did not succumb so easily to such a moment of weakness, instead holding fast to a steely and negative resolve, thoroughly founded in both reality and experience. I do not pretend to be any kind of national sentiment thermometer but the pervading attitude seems to be more of melancholy acceptance rather than outrage or bitter disappointment. Of course there might be a number of reasons for us generally taking something of an 'oh well' attitude:
1) Losing to Italy saved ourselves the embarrassment of what would surely have been Bloemfontain Part 2. Personally I couldn't see Gomez, Klose et al. replicating the same profligacy as Balotelli and Cassano. 31 shots and 0 goals isn't exactly a devastating return.
2) We are truly taken in by the frankly absurd positivity coming out from both media and management, after all, we didn't even want to win, we were just there for the learning opportunities and as character building for the young players (by the way, Welbeck is the only player under 25 who started the match, and 4 players were over 30, but let's not mention that).
3) We just didn't expect that much. We recognised that the reality was that we were outplayed in 3 of the 4 games, and pretty unconvincing in the other one, so although we were miraculously unbeaten, we didn't deserve to go any further, and can just be satisfied that we had a go. But even that doesn't really hold up to scrutiny...
|Heading home - |
probably a good idea
Yes it was penalties, and yes, things could have been so different. Of course I would much rather be supporting England than Italy on Thursday night but the truth is we were pretty dismal all tournament and I think we can all agree that it's not the end of the world that it ended when it did.