x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Ominous signs that England win was not given

There was an air of resignation when Robert Green's error allowed the United States to equalise, bringing on what some would deem failure.

LONDON // Everyone seems to know the score, they've seen it all before. So goes the lyrics to Three Lions, the football song that has gained iconic status among England supporters and has been reprised for a third release for this World Cup. The song goes on to explain how everyone thinks England will throw it all away, before explaining how this could finally be the year for the Three Lions to become champions of Europe or the World. This time round the country was more realistic, the tournament build-up was marked by the loss of two captains - John Terry had the armband taken off him, his replacement Rio Ferdinand was ruled out altogether due to injury. Of course, people have not forgotten watching the 2008 European Championship on TV without England being there. Even the normally enthusiastic media had a sense of perspective. The BBC marked the eve of the game by reminding their viewers of the 1-0 loss to the USA in the 1950 World Cup.

They found USA players to talk about how they should have lost 10-0, like the confused British media had inadvertently reported thinking the 1-0 score was a telegram typo. They found English players to warn that a win was not a given. There was also a sign in the decision not to show the match at Trafalgar Square. Set in central London between the Houses of Parliament and the West End, the big screen is the traditional viewing spot for thousands of supporters in the country's capital and even showed the opening game between South Africa and Mexico on Friday. The debates over what Emile Heskey brings to the team took place in bars rather than outside on what was a pleasantly warm summer evening. The people walking home afterwards sang the words to Three Lions in a rather half-hearted manner, enthusiasm drained by the failure to break down the USA in the second-half. England supporters may not be unique in this, but major tournaments are marked by a process of hope, expectation, failure then blame. This time though, the hope and expectation are limited. When Steven Gerrard put England ahead everyone celebrated, but no one thought it was the start of a 6-0 rout. It was too early to score, came the whispers, the players would draw back and invite the USA on.

There was an air of resignation when Robert Green's error allowed the United States to equalise, bringing on what some would deem failure. Britain loves irony, but no one was laughing that the man who started ahead of David "Calamity" James produced a clanger beyond anything his deputy had ever managed in an England shirt. Progression to the knockout stages should still be secured easily for the Three Lions. The flags are still attached to cars and hang out of house windows, the country will not give up yet. There is no belief of victory yet, but it will come. Everyone will believe that, when it comes to a penalty shootout against Germany, this will be the year luck falls in the favour. Perhaps everyone has seen it all before. Perhaps the lyrics were right, perhaps this is the game England threw it all away but - despite the pessimism -there is nothing like a World Cup to unite a country and perhaps this is the year enough people will still believe - at least, that is what the people of London consoled themselves with. lthornhill@thenational.ae