Wednesday, 16 October 2013

England qualify for Brazil but no one expects

Podcast (with Roy Hodgson audio)

We may have secured our place among the world's elite by beating Poland but there'll be no "England Expects" fanfare before next summer's World Cup finals.

For what we lack in world class we certainly make up for in passion. It's a commodity more than good enough to beat Moldova but has a tinge of amateurish hopelessness as prep for Argentina or Spain next summer.

As we head to Brazil, even the most ardent England fan must take a reality check.

We're thin on the ground when it comes to elite players. Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard carried us through the decisive Polish win, but Cole didn't play and Lampard jogs through the closing stages of a glorious career. What's left of the golden generation won't scare the contenders.

Andros Townsend is taking his chance in an England shirt. His first caps against Montenegro and Poland were marked with a goal and bags of running. He was totally unfazed by the step up to international level.

But he runs with gay abandon with little more responsibility than that, akin to a privateer with a government licence to snaffle up any opportunities. Tactics aren't important for a player whose task is merely to dribble and shoot on sight - that is until the opposition demands greater respect.

Daniel Sturridge is another example of England's deficiency. Good enough for both Liverpool and England - but not the Champions League. Playing at Wembley in a qualifier is akin to the Europa League but it's no longer football's highest level.

As if to prove my point, the latest FIFA Rankings saw England jump back into the top ten, but two places short of being seeded for the Finals.

"You need a ticket to be in the lottery. We've got a ticket", cheered Roy Hodgson as his angst ridden husk relieved itself on the media after Poland. He got good press too.

And he deserves much credit for his mix of pragmatism and adventure, but his gung-ho optimism must disguise private thoughts that he's got to make the most of what he's given.

Look, I don't want be too down on England. We've qualified and rightly the popular press and media chirped and tweeted amid the feelgood factor qualifying brings.

But I'm also a paying customer. We're a football nation of the first water with a world class league, so I dream of an England with more than just a punchers chance of coping in finals.

Let's hope we don't do the Scotland Shuffle and last just three games.

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