England suited to World Cup underdog tag 0

There’s something in the British psyche which embraces the underdog. If you’ve watched any of the Winter Olympics, no doubt you’ll have noticed just how excited we are by a bronze medal, any performance without embarrassment or even a certificate for taking part. Golds are for other countries, it’s not really our business to care about the top step of the podium.

Bigger, more successful nations probably sneer about that behind our back, but having that carefree attitude towards something can often make it more fun. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really translate to how we view our national football team, or at least it hasn’t for a very long time.

England have approached every major tournament for as long as most of us can remember with the expectation of success; whether rational or not, supported by reason or blind faith, we assume that we have a chance of actually winning almost every World Cup or European Championship that we qualify for.

How refreshing is it that in June nobody will really be that surprised if Roy Hodgson’s side are heading home after the final group game? They’ll be disappointment, naturally, but not of the same soul-crushing variety to which we’ve grown accustomed. Whilst England aren’t a minnow in Brazil, they are a side who are essentially on a hiding to nothing and who have nothing to lose at the World Cup.

And actually, maybe that suits us.

This is a tournament which should hold very little fear, because there aren’t really any expectations to fall short of. Similarly, this isn’t going to be one of those competitions in which we all lose interest after England are eliminated, because the very nature of our negativity means that we’ve already accepted the outcome as an inevitability. England will go home, the games will go on, and the most engaging drama will almost all happen after our players have touched-down at Heathrow.

England will travel to South America, they might score a goal or two, one of the younger players might make a name for himself, and then it will come to a gentle end without any kind of emotional scarring.

Actually that sounds rather nice.

Enjoy the trip, get a nice tan, don’t embarrass us. That seems an altogether healthier message than ‘win it or you’re getting stoned at the airport’.

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