Success in South Africa?
Much has been, and far more will be written about this summer’s highly-anticipated World Cup in South Africa. As the excitement grows, a well-covered topic will be the chances of success for our national side. Now, as is always the case when England are concerned, there’s a lot of folk out there, be they fans, pundits or journalists, who think that we have about as much chance as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest of bringing the trophy home for the first time in 44 years. However, I entirely disagree with anyone pooh-poohing our hopes, and here’s why…
1. Fabio Capello
The man doesn’t lose. And I get the impression that if he ever did, he would get so frustrated that he would be a nightmare to be around. He is the kind of bad loser who you would let win, rather than deal with the fall-out of defeat. His record speaks for itself: everywhere he’s been, he’s won a title. At Milan, Juventus, two stints at Real Madrid and Roma.
2. Wayne Rooney
Manchester’s favourite Scouser has stepped up massively this year. His tally of goals speaks for itself, and he has even learned to head a ball. So long as he stays fit, he will be a serious contender for the golden boot. And if we win it, he will be World Player of the Year.
Rio, Terry, Stevie G, Lampard etc. They’ve all been there and tasted the disappointment of penalty defeats and early exits. Top class players learn from this. Look at Italy in 2006 – they had players like Cannavaro, Nesta, Del Piero and Totti who’d all endured frustration in previous tournaments and then went on to win it.
4. The weather
Apparently, June in South Africa is relatively mild. So hopefully no concerns about Japanese humidity or (outrageous) German heat-waves. Good conditions that don’t play into the hands of our Latin rivals.
5. The players
Let’s not focus on the fact that our goalkeeper (whoever gets the nod) might not have everyone’s confidence. Let’s not worry about Ashley Cole’s touch-and-go injury concerns. Let’s focus on the fact that we have a world class spine. From our centre halves through to the front man, we’re dangerous.
6. The rivals
Argentina may have the unstoppable Lionel Messi, but he’s never been as good for the national side as he is for Barca. Plus their coach has something of a ‘loose cannon’ reputation. Brazil have been questioned under Dunga’s tenure. History tells us that Portugal’s Carlos Queiroz may be a great coach, but not as good a manager. Raymond Domenech of France picks his team based on their star signs, and has lost the confidence of public and players. Italy are in the middle of a major transitional period. The Germans haven’t had a ‘great side’ for years either. Fair enough Spain are alright, but we can take them.
Defenders hate it, and we’ve got bucket-loads. Rooney, Walcott, Lennon, Agbonlahor, Defoe – all have pace to burn. The rocket-heeled attackers at our disposal will make us a feared opponent.
One of my favourite things about Capello is the way we seem to be playing in a more ‘English’ way than under previous regimes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ‘kick and rush’, but there seems to be more hunger, more fight and more pride in our performances. The Dutch have technique, the Brazilians flair, the Argentineans cheat and the Germans don’t miss penalties. It is these things that make winners. We have unmatched determination and drive. If used correctly, a fearsome attribute. Think Terry Butcher, head bloodied and bandaged.
9. Lady Luck
She’s been a cruel mistress over the years, hasn’t she? Penalty shootout defeats, disallowed goals, horrible deflections. We’ve seen it all. At some point, she’ll smile on our Three Lions. That time is this summer.
10. Doing it for Becks
No one deserved a place on the plane to South Africa more than our talisman of well over a decade. True, he wouldn’t have started, but his crossing is still unrivalled and his set pieces are match winning. Cruelly struck down by a torn Achilles as he toiled away in Italy to earn the chance to be the only Englishman to appear in four World Cup finals, now the fit and able of our squad have even more motivation to bring back the trophy, dedicated to one of the greatest players this country has ever produced.
So there you go. If you’re not convinced now, you never will be. So often we play down our national team’s chances, so its about time we got firmly behind the lads. Altogther now: “Three Lions oooooooooon a shirt…”.