Lowered Expectations: Can England Reinvent Itself?

It was a process that took around six years from top to tail in total, and it came in three very distinct phases. I had been a supporter of the England national team, reasoning that, with no foreign blood in the family tree and a knowledge that we weren’t all as bad as we were painted, I had to have someone to follow for international tournaments. In February 2003, though, that feeling started to become undermined. England played Australia in a friendly match at Upton Park, and Sven Goran Eriksson replaced the entire team at half-time. It was a tipping point. This were no longer even friendly matches. This was an exhibition match, to all intents and purposes an overblown practice match that could have been played behind closed doors at Bisham Abbey. The next step came on the second day of the 2006 World Cup finals, when England ground out a mind-numbing single goal win against Ecuador thanks to an own goal. Eriksson’s anti-football ground out enough to squeeze the team through to an ill-deserved quarter-final against Portugal. There was, this time around, no drama, no excitement, nothing to quicken the pulse whatsoever. Just a dull, unimaginative goalless draw and a customary defeat on penalty kicks. This time around, though, that sting of defeat – that dull kick to the stomach that came with losing in similar circumstances...

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