Group G World Cup 2018

England hoping to not wilt under the lack of pressure.

England’s build up to the World Cup in Russia has been unusually uninspiring, despite the hiring of a very young and promising manager in Gareth Southgate and a relatively inexperienced and youthful team who are developing excellently under his management. The tournament is too soon in Southgate’s international management career however for expectations to be anything other than palpably unexciting.
Even the most optimistic and ardent fans are struggling to see beyond a quarter final exit at best. If England can qualify through a group that see’s them face a Belgium team that can leave an entire reserve team that would arguable walk into the England team, then they would face a reasonable probable draw against Poland in the last 16 but after that hopes fades fast.
England’s last tournament saw them leave the European Championships with an embarrassing loss to Iceland and left the nation reeling. The scares are still felt to this day. This heartache was made worse with the fiasco that followed Allardyce’s appointment and subsequent departure after only one match and 67 days in charge, after the FA described his conduct as “inappropriate”. Perhaps the FA should look at their own conduct over the last few decades too. The record books however will show an England manager with a 100 percent win ratio though, thanks mainly to Adam Llana’s injury-time goal against Slovakia to win the first of their 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Southgate after ruling himself out of the running for the England job initially, before Allardyce took charge, was rewarded with the full-time position after a successful campaign that saw England beat Malta in his first game in charge 2-0. England then went on to record some good results, most notably victories over Scotland and the Netherlands and draws against the world’s best in Spain, Brazil, Germany and Italy. Admittedly the majority of these were friendlies, but England fans will claim you can only perform in the games you play. It has caused very quite optimism among many supporters but England have a long tradition of letting the county down after lifting the hopes pre-tournament. 52 years of hurt to be precise. The fan’s have been beyond patient and if Southgate has a disastrous tournament the FA will face a massive inquiry.
This Work Cup is a strange phenomenon indeed, as the expectations, for a country that hasn’t won an international tournament since 1966 have always been unhelpfully high. This year this optimism has finally faded and perhaps England can finally perform under the lack of pressure.
The frustrations of an English press have surfaced too. Instead of rallying behind the team before the tournament, usually in an attempt to build them up before they knock them down, the tabloid press has already resorted to trashing the players beforehand. An act that they normally save until after the inevitable heroic defeat on penalties that has become England’s trademark. Perhaps even the English media have lost faith that England will provide excitement this tournament too.
Raheem Sterling has been the latest casualty after his infamous gun tattoo exposure. Despite this however England has quietly gone about their business and going into the tournament are unbeaten during Southgate’s short but encouraging tenure. I fear however the competition has come too soon for England. If they can have a decent showing this World Cup in Russia though, there is definitely reason to be hopeful for the future, lets just hope the pressure doesn’t come with it.
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