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The Ros Dodd column

England - (not very good but) as good as it gets?


So much is even now being written about England's exit from the World Cup that I am loath to add more words to the obituary. However, there is something I feel moved to pass comment on - the “I believe we can go all the way” pre-Portugal defeat rhetoric stirred by David Beckham and reiterated by Sven Goran Eriksson.

I hugely admire Beckham - he's a truly inspiring player even when, as we have seen in this World Cup, he is not firing on all cylinders (ie is past his best). But Beckham et al are - or, more accurately, were - deluded. They said they could win the World Cup this year and even when their first three performances depressed rather than roused their fans, they persisted in their self-belief. The media colluded, insisting that England could play a lot better than they did their opening matches. Arguably, they did play better, albeit sporadically, in the clash with Portugal, but what hasn't been voiced - although the evidence is loud and clear - is that England can't actually execute a superior game than the one it delivered over four matches in Germany. In other words, this is as good as it gets.

What consistently frustrates about England - apart from their failure to lift a major trophy - is their dogged persistence in claiming they have a championship in their sights. not because they are playing brilliantly, but because they are not yet playing to their full potential. This is nonsense. There is no further potential.

England are a national team made up of talented players who don't gel as a whole sufficiently to transform them into a great 11. Such has been the case for many years.

The harsh reality is that England didn't perform well in Germany because - frankly - they couldn't. They're OK, quite good even, but they're not world class by any means.

If you feel moved to disagree, consider this: what other national football side would be stupid enough to lose its premier would-be goal scorer to a red card? Like Beckham in 1998, England's main hope, Wayne Rooney, was sent off during a crucial World Cup clash. Doesn't that demonstrate that whatever technical skills individual England players may have, they lack the maturity to ensure their survival on pitch for the duration of the match?

Rooney is young, yes, but he's a childish, angry young man who hasn't the wit to rein himself in for the good of his team. That says much about the mindset of England. And it's a mindset that shouldn't even have contemplated lifting the 2006 World Cup, never mind bragging about winning it.

England did very well to reach the quarter-finals. If they had progressed, it would have been either a fluke or a travesty, depending on how you look at it. Their poor performance in Germany, cemented by Rooney's humiliating departure, made me want to cry - not because they lost but because my gut instinct tells me that they are not better than they seemed to be: this is as good as it gets - and it ain't great......


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