England is too great to win the World Cup

I find it painful to watch England playing football. As a country they always underperform. Today was a prime example. We had world-class players making the mistakes of a championship side on freefall to relegation. Why is it that we have world class players doing worse than they would do for their own clubs?

Consider the following points.

  1. For many of the English players the game of today was not the game of their lives. For Rooney, Gerrard or Terry, that is the Champions League or a crucial game I winning the Premiership. These games are the culmination of the games played for their club, in the top domestic competition in the world. Playing for their country is a nice extra, but not the pinnacle of their careers. For most other countries, most of the players do not reach those heights in their domestic competitions. They have lesser competitions are home, or play in a foreign league. For them it is like playing in Division 1, and having a once-in-a-career opportunity to play for
  2. We suffer from nationalist schizophrenia. I consider myself British, vote for a British Parliament and hold a British Passport. England is a historical curiosity. For many like me, it is only in sport that we have the nation of England. But for the Scots and Welsh, it is something different.
  3. Parts of the British culture are support for the underdog, diversity and the culture of the generalist. The intense focussed competitiveness required to win is not there. Instead, we see the other point of view, and learn how to compromise. That is why we have not had a pitched battle on British soil for Culloden in 1746, and English soil since Bosworth Field in 1483 (excluding the odd friendly game of Rugby). Instead, the ability to see the other point of view gives us some of the greatest minds of all time. The British invented football (and a host of other sports), a host of peaceful ideologies and produced some of the greatest minds of all time.


English football is incapable of gaining the focus to win. We just bequeath the rules of the game, whether in sport, or politics. We also provide the language in which it is spoken. These are trophies far greater, more enduring than a 10 inch gold one to place on the mantelpiece for four years. Question is, what greater victories are there to come?


Update – On Boris Johnson’s take in the Telegraph here

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