Having watched England’s pathetically inept display in the world cup group game against Algeria, It got me wondering about our status in the world.
We of course expected to beat Algeria well and in some style, thus our disappointment at only managing a draw is in direct contrast to Algeria’s, who reacted as though they had won the whole tournament! On this performance, they look more likely to than England!
So, on what basis do we build our expectations? I decided to take a look back at our World Cup history.
The competition, began in 1930, but England did not enter spurning the first three competitions despite FIFA desperately seeking England's participation.
The Football Association declined all invitations, basically because they held the attitude that England, the inventors of the game, were, almost by default, the best in the world and didn’t need a tournament to decide such things. Not until the fourth tournament did England take part.
Since then England have entered all post-war competitions. They reached the final tournament 11 times, qualifying through play in the preliminary competition on nine occasions (1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1998 and 2002), as host country once (1966) and as reigning champions once (1970). They failed to qualify for the final tournaments on three occasions (1974, 1978 and 1994).
Basically, England have had very little success in the World Cup. Apart from being winners in 1966, England have failed spectacularly to make much of an impression on the tournament as a whole. And yet, we STILL hold the belief that we are right up there with the best.
We won the tournament once, in 1966, when it was held on their own soil and they played all their matches at their home ground, Wembley Stadium, an advantage extended to no other team in World Cup history.
Their 4-2 extra-time victory against West Germany in the only final match they have reached has remained clouded by the controversy over whether their third goal, the first of extra-time, actually crossed the goal line, and, at least in the view prevailing in Latin nations, by the furore surrounding the expulsion of Argentina captain Antonio Rattin in the quarterfinal. The Manager, Alf Ramsey (later Sir Ralph), refused to let his players exchange shirts with the Argentineans’, labelling them as ‘animals’.
Following the final, Ramsey described his England team as “The best team in the world”, which they were....in 1966. However, his preparations for the next world cup, including watching the Brazilian team, a team later given the soubriquet ‘The dream team’, and, somewhat arrogantly declared, “We have nothing to learn from this team.” Brazil went on to win the tournament.
England reached the semi-finals on only one other occasion, at the 1990 tournament in Italy, where, following extra-time victories over Belgium and Cameroon, they went down to West Germany on penalty kicks after a 1-1 extra-time draw. They then lost the third-place match to the host nation, 2-1.
England have reached the quarter-finals on five other occasions, at the 1954, 1962, 1970, 1986 and 2002 tournaments. At the 1982 competition in Spain, where the final tournament was conducted through two group stages with the teams topping the four second-round groups proceeding directly to the semi-finals, England finished the second group stage unbeaten but were eliminated anyway. Their second-place finish in the second-round group was tantamount to a quarterfinal appearance.
England have been eliminated in the round of 16 teams stage on one occasion since the final tournament was expanded to more than 16 teams in 1982--at the 1998 final tournament in France.
England have been eliminated at the first round group stage on two occasions 1950 and 1958, when they finished level in group play with the U.S.S.R. but lost a playoff match.
The World Cup has been a frustrating odyssey for England, particularly since 1966. At several tournaments, their performances have filled their fans with justified hope, but in the end, they have just not had enough to overcome the world's most powerful teams in crucial knockout matches.
Consolation-seekers like to point out that it has been England's misfortune to meet the eventual World Cup winners in the knockout stages of four tournaments. They went out to Brazil, 3-1, in the quarterfinals of the 1962 tournament, to Argentina, 2-1 by way of Maradona's "Hand of God" goal, in the quarterfinals of the 1986 tournament, to West Germany, on penalty kicks after a 1-1 extra-time draw, in the semi-finals of the 1990 tournament and to Brazil again, 2-1, in the quarterfinals of the 2002 tournament after holding the lead.
Twice they have been eliminated in penalty-kick shootouts, in the 1990 semi-final against West Germany and in the 1998 round-of-16-teams match against Argentina following a 2-2 extra-time draw in which they played a man short following the expulsion early in the second-half of midfielder David Beckham.
Perhaps most disappointing was their elimination at the 1982 tournament in Spain. Having won all three of their group matches quite handily, all they could muster in their second-round group was a pair of goalless draws against eventual finalist West Germany and hosts Spain. They went home unbeaten, having yielded only one goal in five matches.
It is difficult to make a genuine case for England as a world power. It seems that we truly believe we ARE a world power, yet with just one victory and little else to show, there is no real evidence to suggest that we are.
Many suggest that because we have the ‘best’ domestic League in the world, it follows that are National team is also powerful. They seem to forget that the Premier League is choc a bloc full of imported foreign players, each and everyone of whom delights in putting the English national side to the torch, whenever they have the opportunity.
In reality our home grown talent finds it difficult to break into their own club sides and is therefore starved of top class competition.
So, whilst the manner of the performance against Algeria was poor, even by England’s standards, do we really have a right to expect anything else? I cannot imagine that the likes of Argentina, Brazil or even Germany (despite their defeat against Serbia) will exactly be quaking in their boots about the prospect of facing England.