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40 Years Of Hurt

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It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m not in the best of moods. Yesterday I watched England get knocked out of the World Cup on penalties AGAIN! You’d think I’d be used to this by now, and you’d think that I’d equally be used to Sven-Goran Eriksson being out managed and out witted by Luiz Felipe Scolari, but no. I’m ever the eternal optimist, ever hopeful that this time, this tournament, England will fulfil their potential and go all the way.

With the raw talent at Eriksson’s disposal his choice of squad was, to say the least, peculiar. Only taking four strikers was odd, especially when two weren’t fully fit, the third was chosen purely on the basis of physical stature and the fourth was an unknown quantity who was destined never to play. What about the highest scoring English player in the Premiership? Oh no, Darren Bent didn’t even make the reserves – clearly scoring an exorbitant amount of goals, despite playing at a “mid-table” club wasn’t enough to convince Sven. And Jermain Defoe? Nope, he was sent home as soon as Rooney was declared fit, leaving us with precious few options once Michael Owen limped out of the Sweden game and the tournament.

But surely with the calibre of players that DID make it into the England squad, we could go all the way despite Eriksson’s continued mismanagement? I definitely thought so, and I remained supremely confident all the way to the start of the tournament. But if I’m truly honest with myself, once the tournament kicked off, my confidence in England’s ability to win the World Cup started to disappear. That’s not to say that my undying support wasn’t still evident – I flew out to Germany for two of the matches to cheer on the lads, but even when I was there in the stands, the sheer mediocrity of England’s performance was all too apparent.

To go out on penalties again is harsh to say the least, but you’d really think that England of all teams would be, well, World class when it comes to spot kicks by now. OK, so David Beckham and Wayne Rooney were both off the pitch and unable to step up when the time came, but Frank Lampard surely should have scored, he’s possibly the most consistent and prolific attacking midfielder in the Premiership. Then there’s Steven Gerrard, without a doubt one of the best players in the world right now, but still he failed to bury the ball in the back of the net from twelve yards.

And who did score from the spot for England? Owen Hargreaves! A player that has come in for so much criticism from all and sundry, myself included. Not a day passed in the tournament when I and many others asked the question “Why is Hargreaves even there?”. But in the game yesterday, after Wayne Rooney was dismissed from the field, Owen Hargreaves was phenomenal. He carried the ball at pace while other players were dead on their feet, he found space where there was none, he created chances when he had no right to, but most importantly, HE scored his penalty.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with TrustedReviews, and I’ll openly admit – not a lot. But given the mood I’m in right now, it’s hard for me to concentrate on much outside the fact that, once again, the England team has had to fly home before the end of a tournament, once again we’ve only made it as far as the quarter finals, and once again I’m left wondering how a group of such incredibly talented football players have managed not to perform to their full potential when it counted.

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