Let’s be honest, I’m critical of Team England so there’s an element of the pot calling the kettle black here. The difference though is I’m not employed by Team England.
No question, England’s drew two difficult teams and one that you’d expect to brush aside with ease for next year’s World Cup. Uruguay and Italy possess the biggest threat for us reaching the knockout stages, but nor are we sat with Germany or Brazil. Yet Roy Hodgson’s comments following the draw, certainly didn’t help to lift spirits of England fans already expecting the worst possible outcome of not reaching the knockout stages.
‘Of course I can’t deny that it’s not the group we would have plucked out for ourselves’, said Hodgson.
Where’s the leadership?
England’s national team is undergoing a difficult period; Greg Dyke’s commission and future development plans need defining, on field performances have been lacklustre – particularly worrying as we head into a World Cup year – and now most recently, I’d suggest there’s a severe lack of leadership from the manager. Roy’s basically saying we’re done? Have you ever heard Mourinho or Sir Alex say things like that? Where is the quiet confidence, even just the promise of us taking our best game to Brazil, I’m not asking for misplaced bravado and chest-beating.
This is most damaging because Hodgson is England’s front spokesman and leader. He’s the one person, despite all the fallout behind him back at FA HQ, you’d expect to convince fans his squad’s heading to Brazil to do this nation proud. I didn’t say win – I said PROUD. Instead, his excessively pessimistic comments – despite going into the draw unseeded and therefore anticipating difficult opponents – provides feeble excuses for an already non-expecting nation needing few reasons to even bother watching.
‘It’s difficult to put a positive spin on the quality of our opponent because even Costa Rica, who’re maybe the least known, are a very, very strong team’, continued Hodgson.
And if you think it’s just Hodgson that lacks optimism, then think again. Greg Dyke’s right, ‘England won’t win the World Cup’. No s**t. But what kind of message does this send to the squad and fans alike? So what WILL we do, Greg? Let’s talk about what we can control and what we will do this time around.
For me, it’s incomprehensible the FA’s chairman feels it necessary to openly criticise England’s chances in such a blasé fashion – that’s my job! It further shows how out of touch the individuals currently running the FA can be at times, here’s Dyke’s reaction to England’s World Cup draw. Baffling.
Let’s embrace it
Granted, there’s a chance we won’t make the knockout stages, but instead of dwelling on the quality of opponents, the unbearable climate and the thousands of miles the players must travel, we need a leading figure and a team that focuses purely on the positives. The opportunities and chances to test England’s future prospects. It’s the World Cup, a tournament we need to embrace and whilst we won’t win it, let’s go at it full throttle, have some fun and exit in a blaze of glory. Give the fans something to cheer about, something this country hasn’t enjoyed since Euro ’96.
Ability without honour is useless: Cicero
Something to get excited about
But despite all the negativity currently bouncing around England HQ, a rare ray of light came my way a few days ago in the form of a tournament predictor tool, which predicts England is most likely to WIN their group stage of the tournament, but will eventually be knocked out by Columbia in the knockout stages. I’d take that!
The guys at @FootyFanalytics told me:
The predictions are based on running 1 million simulations of potential interactions between the teams (including all the different scenarios/permutations that could happen), which we did immediately after the draw on Dec 6th. We calculate a team’s likelihood of winning based on our team strength model, which uses historical results and match data from all international games and applies a unique algorithm to benchmark the relative strength teams and subsequently provide a ranking of all competing teams.
Perhaps if Hodgson spoke about our chances with data, with a degree of quiet confidence, with a knowing about what is possible in tournament football, then it may work towards getting the nation behind him and not on his back – an inevitable action should he continually disregard our chances.
The fans, squad and FA are viewing this tournament as a write-off. That’s not a reason to barely show up come June 2014. As ever – let me know your opinions in the comments below.