Saturday 21st June
I am writing this on Friday before Italy play Costa Rica, so it may already be all over. Mathematically it is still possible for England to continue, but all three games have to go England’s way and they have (at the moment) to win by two goals. We might as well resign ourselves to defeat, although as had been stated by both myself and almost every pundit we were never going to win the World Cup. At least not this time. When the group was decided it was a pretty awful group. Italy were absolute and remain favourites and Uruguay won the South American cup two years ago, so though minnows they managed to beat both Brazil and Argentina. Costa Rica were our sole consolation, and it was imperative that we should at least get one draw from our two opening games. We didn’t. We were undone by the sheer brilliance, of Balotelli and more importantly by Saurez. Italy were probably a better team than us, but on the day I think we outplayed them and except for the two goals deserved something better. Uruguay were solid and harried us all the way, we were never allowed to settle and then we were beaten by two moments of World Class football. And though our team played well, better in fact than they have played for a long time, it wasn’t good enough. We simply do not have World Class players anymore. Maybe Beckham was our last great player, but even he disappointed in South Africa.
It may be that among the new crop of players; Sterling, Welbeck. Sturridge, Wilshire or Lallana one will emerge, but though the signs are encouraging they aren’t there yet. The teams that get to the World Cup final these days are all good, almost all fit and capable of winning games. The difference between them and the best is down to moments of greatness from individual players. We can console ourselves that we played well and with heart, and at least we weren’t as hapless as the Spanish.