Every four years the cry goes up from Newcastle to Southampton; this is the year the cup comes back to England. The fever seems particularly keen this year.
England’s official cup anthem, Bring it Home, captures both the determination and the unmistakable whiff of arrogance that has always been part of England’s sense of it’s position in the footballing world. But could this be the year that Rooney and Terry are mentioned in the same breath with Charlton and Moore?Could the spectre of the 1966 cup winners become a glorious bit of history rather than a cudgel wielded by punters and columnists and waved at every side that has failed to return with the cup?
Certainly England has had some bad luck, (Hand of God anyone?) but more often they’ve traveled to Korea or France or Mexico with an inflated view of their abilities. A realistic assessment of the team has always come to the conclusion that England is a perennial B+ student in a tournament that demands both effort, dazzling skill and a bit of luck. In short, they’re always in the hunt, but in the end the ultimate prize is just beyond their grasp.
And so, four years after Frank Lampard shanked his spot kick against Portugal and sent England packing, hope rises again. The road to the cup begins in Rustenburg against an American side replete with its usual strengths: speed, a stifling defense and the ability to make lightning quick runs in transition and slip past overcommitted defenders. Perhaps this is the year that all of England’s hopes will be realized and the cup will reside where so many feel it belongs. Maybe this team is different. Maybe a hot goalkeeper, solid midfield play and an otherworldly tournament by Rooney will come to pass and the cup will “return” to England.
But history tells a sordid tale of heartbreak when it comes to this side, and it’s tough to ignore the weight of the past on the eve of their first match against a US team with a bit of history on it’s side and very little to lose.