Thursday, 10 September 2009

South African Dreams

Yesterday evening Dori and I went our separate ways as Dori had some study to do for her course, and I settled down in front of the TV to watch the World Cup qualifier between England and Croatia at Wembley Stadium. This qualifying campaign for the England national team has been somewhat unusual in that they have not had any of their usual mishaps or freak results. In fact, prior to last night’s game, they had won all 7 of their group matches in the quest to qualify for next summer’s tournament in South Africa. Victory in the match against Croatia would guarantee England their place at the World Cup Finals, which, as you can see from the Countdown Timer on this page, starts on June 11th 2010.

There was a little history to this fixture too, as just two years ago England were again lining up against Croatia in a match that, if they had won it, would have meant they had qualified for the European Championships of 2008. In a bizarre performance that night, England somehow contrived to slip to a 3-2 defeat and hence failed to qualify for a major tournament for the first time in 14 years. That result also led to the sacking of manager Steve McClaren who was later replaced by Italian Fabio Capello. So, last night was an opportunity to put things right and re-establish England as a major force in world football.

Wembley Stadium

And the match could not have gone any more smoothly, from an English point of view. The team went ahead after just 8 minutes when Aaron Lennon was tripped in the penalty box and Frank Lampard smacked home the resulting penalty. Then, just 10 minutes later, it was Lennon again who played a crucial role, this time providing the inch perfect cross for Steven Gerrard to power home a header to make the score 2-0. Although the score remained the same for the rest of the first half, England were dominating the play and the result was already looking a foregone conclusion. The second half saw England score another three goals (Lampard again, Gerrard again and Wayne Rooney). David Beckham made a cameo appearance to notch up his 114th International cap. The only blot on an otherwise flawless performance was a momentary lapse in the England defence, allowing Croatia to score. But a resounding 5-1 victory meant that England have now qualified in some style for next year’s World Cup Finals, with two qualifying group matches still left to play. It is the first time ever that the national team have qualified so early for a World Cup, and they have scored 31 goals on their way to doing so – more than any other European team.

So, now the countdown to June 11th really starts, when the world’s best football teams will gather again to battle it out to become World Champions. England have won the World Cup just once before – in 1966, before I was born. Every four years, when the World Cup rolls around again, the expectation that England might just do it this time is ramped up, and each time they fail to live up to that expectation – more often than not going out at the quarter-final stage. But could this time be THE time? Capello has got the team playing impressively, and he is a manager with a proven track record. I am not going to predict an England win, as there are teams such as Spain and Brazil who have much stronger claims to be favourites for the crown. But this qualifying campaign has renewed belief in the national team and given me, and several million other long-suffering England fans, that little bit of optimism that means we dare to dream once again.

Just 273 days to go! Yay!


Deana said...

Hi BritBoy,

Deana Here, Dori's virtual friend in the Netherlands. (Lately I feel we are becoming virtual friends too, you and I).

I can tell you like Soccer, Britboy. Congrats with England's win. The Netherlans also won from Scotland this week.

What do you think of the Team of the Netherlands?

Britboy, I just started a blog of my own too. Not much on it yet, ony my intro about myself and 1 post. You can check it on if you can spare some time.

You have a nice weekend.
Bye for now.

Brit Boy said...


Thanks for dropping by. The Netherlands are another very strong team at the moment - the very first team from Europe to qualify for next year's tournament. It was certainly a very tight and entertaining game when England played the Netherlands in a friendly game last month! Oh, and welcome to the blogging world - it's good to have you join us.

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