Luke’s World Cup: comfort in the discomfort of giants


Time to concentrate anew on England v Slovenia. OK. England have been rubbish so far. But France have made our rubbish look good (I hate to say it but the obvious reaction to today’s decisive result is frankly “good riddance”), and there have been unconvincing performances from Italy, Germany and – until last night – Spain. Patriotic to the end, Luke Harvey tries his best to keep the faith …

“I can’t believe we didn’t beat such a poor team,” came one comment from around the table. “I know,” I replied, “It almost makes you ashamed to be Algerian, doesn’t it?”

A few forced smiles were raised but the day after the night before was still a bit too early for such jocularity. The conversation was quickly diverted away from football towards something less disheartening.

In some respects, even now the wounds are still a little too fresh for my liking, despite the time that has passed between the match and these thoughts. The morgue-like atmosphere among my friends following the match was a stark contrast to the pre-match festivities.

As Slovenia quickly opened up a 2-0 lead over the USA I jumped to my feet and pumped my fists in delight. I had recently had an article published in the local newspaper and had acclaimed Slovenia as my dark horses of the group.

My friends had seen the piece and now the pressure was on me to prove my football knowledge was second to none. As it turned out, the draw that transpired would be ideal for England – leaving the top spot open for the grabs on the final day.

The rather pathetic performance against Algeria isn’t something that will be leaving my conscience anytime soon, and despite my inability to influence the result in any shape or form, I was left feeling almost responsible for such a poor performance. It’s as if I’m ashamed of the whole thing, although I suppose someone has to be.

As the England team trudged off the pitch following the goalless draw with a team deemed much inferior to ourselves, “Always a blue” Wayne Rooney had his rather ironic say to a nearby camera: “Nice to see your own fans booing you, that’s what loyal support is.”

Coupled with making the entire PR department put their head in their hands, Rooney managed to show that when you put a camera in front of a frustrated England player, he may well prove himself to have lack the least appreciation of how to behave.

From this petulant outburst, to John Terry airing the squad’s grievances all the way to David James’s anger at being excluded in the first match, the cameras have essentially captured a group of individuals crumbling in front of them.

After all, that’s all they seem to be, individuals.

You often get the feeling that the national team’s success comes some way down the list of priorities for many of our international players, certainly trailing the likes of “myself”, “my wife” and “my money” by a considerable margin. Most of all, these players seem to think we should almost be rejoicing at their horrific performances.

I can tell them that we most definitely are not. These woeful matches that I have sat through leave me feeling hollow and rather embarrassed about what I always thought was a proud nation.

Perhaps that’s a little over the top, but the fact I am still dejected even days after the match highlights quite how this World Cup has me feeling so far.

There are a lot of things I could call our part in the match against Algeria, many of them far from suitable for a website of this nature. What I will label it though is flat, one-dimensional and devoid of backup.

We have played, and it seems we always will play, a very predictable brand of football. You can imagine that no matter who you put in the team, if they pulled on an England strip they would automatically pass the ball sideways to the person next to them in almost robotic fashion. There is always a very pedestrian feel whenever we have the ball, an aura that we are almost counting on the opponents to give us a goal as opposed to actually earning it ourselves.

There was no such luck against the Algerians, who came into the match organised and full of confidence; and rightly not fearing our side. They were well aware that if they kept the ball and passed it around, forcing us to chase it for long periods, frustration would soon set in. The fact that Algeria were more than our equals for much of the match did not help in the least; we can’t even take solace by claiming we dominated the game and were just unfortunate. We weren’t.

Where we can seek some comfort is in the similar failings of nations like France, Italy and Spain and to a certain extent, Germany; all of whom have struggled so far in the early stages of this tournament.

England must now make sure that the previous two matches are out of mind and prove to the people watching that when the pressure is on they can deliver, because, should they win, the pressure is only going to increase from here on. Once again I will take up my seat and cheer England on, hopeful in the fact that this won’t be our last involvement in a World Cup for four more years.

On the other hand, I always have Paraguay. They aren’t looking too bad, are they?

7 thoughts on “Luke’s World Cup: comfort in the discomfort of giants”

  1. Wasn’t Cisse awful? I didn’t see the game but have no trouble imagining it.

    How is Danny Shittu playing in a World Cup? He’s been,………. well living up to his name. Whoops wrong question. Mmmm; they’ve nobody else.

    Is Otto Rehmagel the dullest coach in the history of football? On the rostrum, but looking up in awe (or more likely expressionlessly) at Luis Cesar Menotti.

    Why am I answering these questions? For my own amusement.

  2. Wasn’t Cisse awful!! Thank goodness we got rid of him at the end of last season.
    How is Danny Shittu playing in a World Cup?
    Why is Harry Redknapp on the BBC team?
    Is Otto Rehmagel the dullest coach in the history of football?
    Why am I asking these questions when I know the answers?

  3. Your words have a resonance with me Bill for sure. I fully understand where you are coming from, believe me. I will get back to England in the early morning of the Thursday morning. By Saturday tea time I will be sat on the Chunnel more than ready for Bourgogne. It’s seeing family briefly and a few friends that sits between me and a direct flight from Pearson to Paris.

  4. My national mood is Canadian! When I left England, I left it. Whenever I go back, I find myself thinking, “Three hours and I could be in France….” Which is why I’ve supported the French national team — and, more to the point, the country — for more years than I care to remember.

    And why I WASN’T thinking “good riddance” today. No, I wasn’t surprised and yes, les Bleus were well-beaten. But I was sorry not to see them turn themselves around and put up a good show in the rest of the tournament. If nothing else, it would point up what a mockery so much of upper-echelon football really is. The top teams, by and large, are run by cynics, which includes their exclusive little cliques of star players. Had France started winning, Anelka would have been straight back on a plane to South Africa and all would have been forgiven.

    In a more perfect would, Bent would not have been shut out of this competition by a combination of fear, jealousy and inertia. And he may well have sung the national anthem, too.

  5. A really thought heart felt and thoughtful piece Luke. You’ve summed up for me what I suspect must be the national mood. That’s difficult as “our national mood” on this side of the water is pretty much myself and Bill!

    Your comments about the perception of the players is absolutely bang on the money for me. Our kids nearly always ask me “why can our players not sing like that?” when the various anthems are played. You see chests puffed out with pride and tears welling. Our lot just look as if they really wishes someone would turn the music off. They don’t look very proud to be out there and that is more than half of the problem for this bunch of overpaid primadonas.

  6. Your account is spot on. The past 3 days or so have magnified the bad, and the ugly side of the somewhat detached reality, of certain individuals blessed with playing in our “national team”. I am reflecting after reading this, as to whether Darren Bent would have provided some humble down to earth inputs into, what appears from the outside, a team full of pre madonnas and ego hungry pr led individuals. Would it be churlish to suggest these individuals are indeed more concerned about their own sponsors and image?. I find it insulting to each and every fans intelligence that players can question our loyalty and commitment as a fan. I pray we will win on wednesday or at least progress to next stage and put up a fight commendable to their 3 lions badge and vastly inflated wages!.

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