England's Emphatic Win Places Me In Unfamiliar Territory

In the run up to England’s World Cup qualifier with Croatia on Wednesday I was filled with hope that the Three Lions could avenge the nightmare of two years ago and qualify for the World Cup in the process.

This though only represented half of my thoughts. I also harboured feelings of dread, images of England once again failing to put in a performance when it mattered and visions of Scott Carson making a nightmarish return to the England team.

I was astonished and delighted then to witness a clinical and ruthless England comfortably sweep aside Croatia and cruise towards the World Cup with two games left to play. Does this now mean that England are a genuine hope at the World Cup or am I just hopping on the bandwagon of expectation that rides around every two years at tournament time?

Historically the national side have always had players of quality nestled in amongst mediocrity. Occasionally groups of players seem to gel collectively and raise expectations of success after a few decent results.

Expectation and excitement though soon fizzles out and fades into disappointment, as we are knocked out by either Portugal, Germany or Brazil after a series of disappointing but effective performances on the world stage.

Qualification is normally a difficult process where we need a point from a trip to Warsaw to qualify or are forced to enter via the play-offs.

Usually battling away results and disappointing home performances against the minnows of Europe can adequately summarise our quest for qualification.

Disjointed displays where a handful of individuals shine while the rest of the team sleeps and helps scupper any hopes of a comfortable qualification campaign, leaving us to rely on a David Beckham masterclass to earn us a victory over Greece.

A 100% qualification record and an aggregate scoreline of 9-2 over Croatia has thankfully washed away these fowl memories and the disappointment of Steve McLaren’s reign. This has been aided by qualification being achieved with two games to spare, something which England had never before achieved.

Now I don’t want to start raising the bar of expectation for England as I don’t think my ticker could take it, but it appears there is a change in the England camp and that has to be down to Mr Capello.

I feel it is important to address him as Mr Capello as he is the first man to take charge of the national team in my memory who has such a fearsome presence that commands your respect and if he keeps getting results I’ll happily address him however he pleases. An honorary knighthood would be greeted with joy; such is my admiration and respect for the man.

His strict insistence on discipline has transformed England from a team of try-hards to an organised outfit that are professional and difficult to beat.

There have been no incidents involving dentist chairs and a box full of booze, no stars staying out all night or even the slightest peep of any misbehaviour. All images coming out of the England camp have the players standing to rigid attention awaiting instruction from the gaffer and this can only be a good thing.

With two games left in the qualification campaign, Capello has led England in unprecedented fashion to the World Cup and also into unfamiliar territory.

At this moment I am unsure how to act now that England are actually a team that deserves recognition. I’m used to us being the plucky underdog with a Battle-of-Britain spirit.

Obviously there is still a great deal of work to be done as friendlies against France and Spain proved, but that isn’t something that Mr Capello is likely to shy away from.

The only real danger to England’s attempts at bringing success back home will not come from inside the England camp (Mr Capello simply wouldn’t allow it) but from the national media encircling the team.

Tags: England, World Cup

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Jonathan 13 September 2009 at 9:28pm

Don’t get your hopes up too much. I doubt the media will be to blame either.

What will happen is a bunch of players will release autobiographies a couple of weeks before the World Cup, then to get coverage for them they’ll make a series of ridiculous claims that they will never deliver upon.

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