Tuesday, 25 May 2010

England's World Cup "Chances"

“Wit in the face of adversity! Good! You've learned something from the English...”
-Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier), Sleuth, 1972

Sorry to piss on everyone's chips here, but I just wanted to throw a little realism into the swelling patriotism that England is feeling. The FIFA World Cup is 17 days away. The flags are flying. (Nobody's really offended by this, by the way, but that's a side thought. Unless, of course, they are very strange. It's just a flag.) Most of us are looking forward to the England games. Even I am, even though I'm not remotely interested in football. Most of us are thinking maybe, just maybe, this will be our year- the year the England squad lifts the World Cup trophy.

But it won't be. Look at the facts.

'06- Portugal beats England on penalties at the quarter finals. Italy wins the tournament.

'02- Brazil beats England on penalties at the quarter finals. They win the tournament.

'98- Argentina beats England in the knockout stage.

I could go on. Portugal, Brazil and Argentina “were once part of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires”. (Rangel, Carlos (1977). The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United States. ) Now check this out. In Portugal, they have the Waltz and the Fandango. In Brazil, Samba. In Argentina, Tango. Salsa is popular throughout Latin America, Spain, Portugal, France, Eastern Europe and Italy.

What does England do? Morris dancing and country dancing. How many of us do this? I'll guess at none under 50 years old for the former, and none over 10 for the latter. I can find no evidence that dancing is even on the British National Curriculum any more.

England has a squad of clumsy, diving accident-prone luddites. English footballers- from the FIFA England squad to your local five-a-side- have never changed their ways, never honed their footwork beyond what they have been used to in England. And they won't. Because the aforementioned countries have dance engrained in their culture, because people of these nationalities grow up seeing and experiencing dance, they seem to have a practical understanding of footwork and balance- and it appears to cross over to the football pitch.

I heard a news reporter mention something similar to this theory on TV after the 2002 World Cup. He mentioned it was possible that the England squad might look into what makes Brazilian football so skillful, and try to take on some of their techniques. I didn't see it reported again. In 2006 England lost, again, to a salsa-dancing country.

Given this theory, it seems amazing that England even won a World Cup in the first place. 1966 must have been an off year for the Latin nations. Maybe 2010 will be too, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm preparing for a quarter-final defeat to a country more graceful than our own.

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