England: You don’t always get what you want
By Guest Writer Rod Brazier.
Sometimes in life you don’t always get what you want. Wishing something will happen gets you no nearer to achieving it, for achievement is, and should be, hard to come by. No one gets given an accomplishment, they earn it. Simply turning up with expectation and belief isn’t enough.
So England only managed to draw 1-1 with the USA in their opening World Cup game. We shouldn’t be surprised. Opening games are notoriously cagey, nervous affairs. Not losing is more important than going for a gung ho win and whilst the England side did create enough chances to win the game it could be argued that so too, did the Americans. For a period in the first half we were as much on the ropes as they were and there were as many points of concern for England supporters and areas of encouragement.
England and Liverpool captain Gerrard, who led from the front, fired Capello’s side into a fourth minute lead as England demonstrated their strengths. Rooney intelligently dropped deep to create space in behind him for Gerrard to maraud into. It saw him one-on-one with Tim Howard as he latched onto a terrific ‘round the corner’ pass from Heskey. It took one touch to set the ball and a poke of the right foot for Stevie G to put us 1-0 up. But, as I called at the time, teams who score early don’t go on to win matches as often as they should. Having that early advantage does more to upset game plans and tactics than it does to boost belief and optimism. England suffered a touch of ‘what do we do next?’ because of this.
They didn’t play badly. Heskey was, as ever, a hugely strong link for the creative individuals around him to bounce off and the Lampard/Gerrard axis showed no problems. Glen Johnson also had one of his better games, going forward at will and creating more of a threat than Aaron Lennon down the right flank. Other players were nullified too easily – Rooney was fouled incessantly and marked determinedly. Ashley Cole was pegged back by Landon Donovan. John Terry and Jamie Carragher were both outpaced easily on occasion – this being the most concerning matter that may come back to haunt England at a more important stage. Rio was a far bigger blow than we gave the United defender credit for.
Of course, games change on key moments and it was through a horrific blunder that USA found themselves on equal terms. Rob Green, a just number one for England (more due to a lack of contenders than an extreme ability), had the moment that all goalkeepers fear. As Clint Dempsey’s tame shot squirmed from his gloves as he crouched routinely to stop it he knew instantly the mistake he had made. An anguished cry as the ball; crossed the line, a reddened face as he picked the ball from the defining net – Green had had one of those moments. He had looked nervous in the tunnel, but it is any wonder? One reason we don’t provide World champions in the most popular sports is because of the pressure we place on our competitors. Realistically, England have no right to expect to do well in a World Cup. We haven’t done for years, we have a few great players but many more frightened to make a mistake than confidence in pushing themselves to do something amazing.
Think back to the best individual performances in an England shirt and you see the fearlessness of youth in them more than the wealth of experience – Gazza in Italia ’90, Owen in France ’98 and Rooney in the European Championship in 2004. They were truly great performances because at that age they knew no better! As a nation we’d be far better set for success if we were to view the Quarter finals as the result of a fine tournament rather than expecting success. Winning should be something to savour, a feeling of true achievement. We’re not of the calibre of Roger Federer or Tiger Woods so let’s stop kidding ourselves.
However, despite this result, all is not lost. The two remaining group games are winnable and I fully expect them to be won as England progress. With luck, we will avoid Germany in the second round and then it will be, once again, the Quarter Finals, our eternal Waterloo, that tests us.
For now, be strong, blame no-one, expect nothing and enjoy the ride as best you can. You can’t always have what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.
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