Viet Nam News
By Paul Kennedy
I’ve an old mate back in England, goes by the name of Russell Beale. Nice lad, smart, good laugh and about to become a father for the first time.
He lives in a small town called Stroud in the South West of England but reading his Facebook page this past week or so and you would be forgiven for thinking he’s from another planet. Russell genuinely believes England will win the World Cup.
His profile picture is decked out with patriotic colours and his posts and updates read like a motivational speaker employed to lift the entire nation. Before the Panama game, Russell predicted England would win 10-0. He wasn’t far off.
I laughed at first at this ridiculous idea that my home nation actually stands a hope in Hell, but after giving it a little more thought I started to come around to his way of thinking.
England’s squad for the World Cup is a young team of solid individuals who have bonded with, it seems a common goal. There are little, if any, premadonnas in the team nor is there a single stand-out player who thinks he’s the bee’s knees and is more bothered about his hair style than the three lions on his chest.
There doesn’t appear to be any cliques forming within the squad of Manchester United players who won’t talk to the Liverpool players who in turn give Chelsea stars the cold shoulder.
There are no pop star WAGS strutting their stuff around Moscow desperate to see a photographer’s flash bulb and the coach is young, hungry and keen.
Throw into the mix how the other so-called favourites for the tournament are doing and the belief gets that little bit stronger.
Argentina are in disarray, Portugal and Germany are a million miles from their best. Brazil needed two late goals to see off Costa Rica and France, so far, haven’t exactly set the world a light.
Granted, England have not exactly played a team of note yet, but that’s not what the World Cup is about. Panama and Tunisia are hardly nations with a fine football pedigree but to win the competition you have to beat the teams you face, something England have struggled with in the past in major tournaments.
Another thing the team in white seems to be devoid of on the big stage is luck.
In Italy in 1990, England lost in the semi-final on penalties against Germany, and all we came home with was advertising deals for Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce who both fluffed their spot-kicks.
After not qualifying in 94, four years later England managed to get through to the last 16 only to be beaten again on penalties, this time David Batty and Paul Ince the culprits to miss from 12 yards against Argentina in a match that David Beckham saw red. Stupid sure, but bad luck all the same.
In 2002 in Japan, it was Brazil the eventual winners who put England to the sword, narrowly beating the Europeans by two goals to one.
Four years later in Germany it was the turn of the so-called Golden Generation. Portugal were the team to knock England out, again thanks to the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Come South Africa in 2010 and once again Germany did the damage, thrashing England in the last 16.
Least said about Brazil the better.
So what’s changed? What’s new? And what makes our chances any different to those tournaments in the past when England promised so much, yet delivered so little? Honest answer? Who knows?
But there’s something niggling in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.
The omens are there. The last time Russia won both their opening games of a World Cup competition was in 1966. The one and only year England ever won the tournament.
Things are different this year for sure, but if the team continues to play to their capabilities, and chuck in a big dollop of luck, then who knows what can happen.
One thing is for sure though, Russell Beale from Stroud in Gloucestershire believes. And who are we to doubt him? Russell’s not negative, Russell thinks England can win it, I’m going to be like Russell.
Here’s hoping England come back from Russia with a lot more than just love.