Well this is probably only of interest to about 1 reader (hi Peter!) of incorporated subversion and certainly somewhat, um, off-topic but what the heck.
For those of you still wondering what an offside rule is here’s the run down. England, the country that arguably invented the modern game, has had a pretty awful experience of doing well in on at the highest stage. There was 1966… but that was at home and, as I’m sure many Germans might argue, largely down to a Wembleytor (search for it here)… but apart form that, a painful exit in 1990 at the semi finals – ahh Waddle and the post – has been as good as it has got. In 2002, for example, we limped out weakly in the quarters despite going a goal up and playing half of the game with an extra man.
So, come 2006 and our surprisingly early qualification (we usually leave it to the last game, away to Italy or something equally awful), expectations have (as always) been seriously and unsubstantiatedly high – mine included – especially given boy wonder Wayne Rooney’s international and domestic form – until the inevitable, and horrible, happened last week. Which puts us in an interesting situation… usually so hopelessly optimistic there’s a feeling of gloom and doom – even a kind of avoidance of the subject – given that all we now have to rely on is a bunch of pretty ordinary players, none of whom are particularly good at providing that brilliance required to win the big games and pretty much all of whom have performed so averagely at significant stages of previous tournaments.
Which, surprisingly (or perhaps less so given ridiculous optimism previously mentioned) gives me a strange sense of hope regarding this time round.. you see, going into 2002 we had the miracle of Beckham and the maturing Owen and everyone got excited, the same went for 2004 with Rooney coming through (until he didn’t) and, to be honest, I’m kinda getting the feeling that I’d prefer ‘steady-sure’ to ‘one man reliance’ and ‘underdogs’ to ‘potential winners’. Think Germany 2002 and you’ll see where I’m coming from.
Basically Robinson is a very solid keeper (no more Seaman to worry about – yes, we had a goalkeeper called Seaman, whatofit!) Ashley Cole, Neville, Ferdinand and Terry are great defenders with plenty of experience and Campbell to cover. Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard and Joe Cole are all pretty accomplished midfielders, all with good medals under there belts and are pretty much aligned in terms of position, although admittedly less so in terms of gelling and Owen, providing he’s fit, is a guaranteed 0.5 goalscorer.
What I reckon Rooney missing gives us is an opportunity to do two things. First up there’s the potential there for a Schillachi-esque performance from Crouch or Bent or Defoe (I’m not that hopeful though) but more to the point there’s that underdog aspect added to (if he can make it) that ‘get Wayne to the final’ dream… and to be honest, I’d rather they crash out trying bloody hard against a better team than capitulate weakly to the first decent side they meet, although under Sven I’m less than sure of that… roll on Portugal in the quarters I reckon, even our Swede will be able to get fired up for that one ;)