The European Football Championships of 2012, held jointly in the Ukraine and Poland , was the first time since France 1998 that England went into a major football tournament without the weight of huge expectation on their backs.
The media, pundits and fans all seemed to be in collective agreement that nothing was expected from the team, and as a result the players could play free of any pressure.
Pressure off, England duly topped their group, in which France were the only other real major side, before crashing out on penalties, yet again, to Italy.
The fact that they had held the Italians to a 0-0 draw was in itself somewhat miraculous considering that the Italians had out-passed and out-classed their English counterparts from kick-off to final whistle.
England did their usual trick of defending deep, holding out for a draw, before entering the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.
It’s always the same story, nothing ever changes, and it seems unlikely that it ever will change.
I had hoped that the refreshingly novel approach going into Euro 2012, whereby nothing was expected of England, was going to be the norm for all forthcoming major tournaments.
However, despite the fact that England are far from being guaranteed a berth at the World Cup in 2014, there are already signs that the media, pundits and fans will once again start to churn out the same old rubbish of “England Expects”.
Somewhere around about 1995/1996, despite having failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1994, the media in England suddenly succumbed to a terrible illness. Nobody saw it coming, and nobody seemed to know what caused it.
The result of this terrible illness was truly shocking. All of sudden, these experts on football, be they respected journalists, writers or retired professional players, started to try and convince people that they genuinely believed that England was a world class football team, full of world class players, and that they were serious contenders for every tournament they played in.
I am not sure where this belief has come from and I am not entirely sure where it all began and why. However, I want to at least try in the coming days, weeks and months, to look back over the last 18 years, and try to see if I can pinpoint the moment that the England team went from being an average side full of semi-decent players, to a veritable football behemoth full of players so wonderfully gifted that they were labelled the "Golden Generation”.
Despite only ever making one final in either the World Cup or the European Championships, the same number as the mighty Greece no less, England are always massively hyped up in this country, way beyond their true ability and standing.
It truly is a strange phenomenon that only seems to happen with football in this country. The England cricket team has become one of the best Test sides in the world over the last eight years or so.
As a result, when they go into Test series’, there is rightly a high level of optimism. That said, when the England cricket side is not playing well, all the cricket writers, pundits and fans can accept it.
They don’t try and make England out to be better than they are, and more often than not are quite scathing in their criticisms of the side. The same applies with the England rugby team. In 2003, they went into the World Cup as rightful favourites and were hyped up accordingly.
Before 2003, and since, I don’t recall there being any World Cup where England have been touted as potential winners or overwhelming favourites. The rugby writers and experts know what they are talking about, and are realistic in their views. When it comes to football though, the writers, experts and fans seem to have a blind spot.
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