Take stock of England and their progress in the World Cup

The hype is back.  Media and commentators cannot leave it alone, and here are the latest examples.
1. England have exceeded expectations.  True, but only because the groups draw suggested that England would meet Brazil or Germany in the quarter-finals.
2. England’s players have been heroes.  False.  It’s only football.  But even in football terms, heroism comes when beating a side with a track record.  Circumstances means England can only now be heroic by beating France.
3. England’s players have been brilliant.  Bit unfair cos this has tended be a recent view from cheerleaders rather than football analysts.  Watch the Irish tv pundits and read the Guardian analysts for a more sober analysis.  But we know all our players have or have demonstrated flaws in this tournament with the possible exception of Kane.
4. England usually make us suffer in these competitions.  False.  The media make us suffer.  OK, Southgate has been a step above in being clear on his best formation and special tactics given the players available, and then tweaked selection to fit the plans.
5. The whole country is behind them.  False.  Viewing figures are still below half of England’s population, and once again, the failure to be sensitive to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So why should we be proud of England in this tournament?
– In every game (except the England reserves – Belgium reserves game), England has gone out to attack, attacked with some potential of scoring in those attacks and that makes watching them so much more enjoyable.  And it is a change – we’re talking England, and the FA who in putting out their top 10 England competitive moments, put scoring a penalty as 2 of them
– The special teams play.  That great story – that Southgate met top US basketball teams to find out players can move in confined spaces when heavily marked.

England will beat Croatia by at least 2 goals.  True.  Well, opinion.  I’m actually prepared to go along with this one, not least cos everybody qualifies it with recognition for Croatia’s strengths.  But our players are commercially valued as worth twice as much, have developed a special teams approach with the ability to punch through a defence from set-pieces, the form has been improving, we have Harry Kane, and Trippier and Maguire, and Croatia have had longer games and look more tired.  Croatia do have an advantage in having more experienced players, and their midfield may well overwhelm Henderson (no criticism implied), but the punditry on Croatia has either been respectful, or passed them by, rather than announce that they’re not very good.

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