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We’re proud of our nice team… aren’t we?

OPINION: England’s World Cup adventure may have helped the fans reconnect with the national team, but it doesn’t make us favourites for the European Championships

19 July, 2018 — By Richard Osley

England fans suffer World Cup heartbreak

EVERYBODY is proud, super-proud. Our boys didn’t win the World Cup, but we are all so very proud.

In fact, we are almost prouder of our players after their semi-final loss in Russia, than we possibly could’ve been if they had won the whole thing. They are only young lads after all, but we’re proud of them. Proud, proud, proud, beams a thousand tweets.

Some supporters were so proud they called for an open-top bus parade, to let them know how proud we all are. And let’s say again, didn’t they do well? Proud!

At this moment, it takes a brave hyena to ask: Which England victory in the World Cup are you most proud of? Was it Tunisia, a final-second winner in a long-drawn out toil? The 6-1 drubbing of pub team Panama? The sweaty penalty shootout success against Colombia? Or the simple win against unimaginative Sweden?

It’s hard to choose really, as we are all so happily proud, but a colder analysis suggests England beat all the teams it should be beating – ie if we had lost any of those matches it would have been embarrassing to some degree – but then lost against anybody who could string a clever forward pass together.

Gareth Southgate guided England to the semi-finals of the World Cup

This process was fun and emotional – we proudly wore waistcoats – but does it really set us up as one of the favourites for the European Championships? In fact, as proud as we are, England almost lost as many matches as they won at this World Cup. This inconvenient stat suggests what we are really proud of is something else, something deeper.

People say, actually, they are proud because this group of players seem quite nice and have “reconnected” with the nation again; it was OK to feel proud about the England team again. But win or lose, that rather sounds like a pleasant way of saying, we’re proud that we don’t have John Terry as the captain of the national side anymore.

At the start of these World Cup diaries, I did say that Arsenal v Spurs rivalries should be suspended for the common good – we were all Harry Kane fans for three weeks – so the final note is just an observation, not a dig.

There is, however, talk of a “Spurs mentality” in the football world, as unkind as it sounds. Tottenham fans, when being self-deprecating, call it being “Spursy”.

It relates, I guess, to the fact they have lost eight FA Cup semi-finals in a row. Before the semi-finals of the World Cup last week, Spurs had nine players in the tournament.

Eight of them fell at this haunting stage of the competition. The one that remained, Hugo Lloris, was not to be outdone even in winning the World Cup, saving his most spectacular blunder for the billion-audience final match.


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