England are on the cusp of completing the European Championship Qualifiers with a 100% record of ten wins from ten games. All that stands in their way from completing a feat only five countries have managed before is an artificial pitch and Lithuania. Such an achievement could be like the surface they’ll play on tonight and give rise to more false hope for England fans.
If the Three Lions do manage to complete a 10 out of 10 rout of Group E they deserve to take some plaudits. Already people are belittling the qualifying campaign as a nothing more than beating pub teams. Admittedly there have been weaker sides in the group, San Marino one of the countries in this phase that add weight to the calls for a pre-qualifying tournament for the minnows, but there are no guarantees or God-given rights to qualifying, just ask Steve McCLaren.
The team have had to brush off a World Cup disappointment and go about their business in a professional manner. It’s safe to say the nine games have left England fans underwhelmed but they shouldn’t be surprised. Roy Hodgson has never been accredited with having sides that play exciting football. He is methodical in his approach though, it’s this style that allowed him to take Switzerland to USA ‘94, losing only one game during qualifying.
Other countries have struggled to meet expectation during the Euro qualifiers. The Netherlands would have expected an equally obtainable top spot in their group, instead they sit fourth.
This all sounds like good news for England but it’s never that simple where the national team is concerned. Alex Ferguson reveals in his latest autobiography that he was offered the job of England manager twice – and being Scottish aside – never considered it because of the pressure that comes with it. From a man that stood atop the pile and managed a giant club, successfully, for so long, it shows the problems associated with England.
After a disappointing World Cup the expectations for the England side have been in hibernation. They’ve been replaced with self-mocking with the only newsworthy references being made pertaining to Wayne Rooney’s scoring record. This will slowly change now.
England will be seeded for the Euro 2016 draw. This will plant the seed of expectation once again. Before that starts to grow history should be observed. Spain are the only side to ever win a tournament after a perfect qualifying campaign and even the most loyal England fan will have to admit the national side are nowhere near that level right now.
In the past the weight of expectation has crippled chances before a ball has been kicked. The best thing the team can hope for is more indifference surrounding their on-field achievements. And if the group isn’t a true reflection of their quality then the following three games after tonight should give us a better idea. They play Spain and France in November before facing World Champions Germany in March.
If they come out of those games with a 100% record then some fanfare will be warranted. Until then it’s best not to shout too loud.