Since England qualified for the World Cup Semi-Finals by beating Sweden there has been a lot of discussion as to whether or not the country deserves to be there.
“They’ve only beaten lesser teams”, “they haven’t been tested”, “they only scraped through against Tunisia”, “they lost to Belgium’s B Team” – these are some of the many accusations against the England team evidencing why they are unworthy World Cup Semi-Finalists. “They’ll come unstuck against a stronger side” is the final message of doom conveyed.
Well, here’s some news for you. Many of the so-called ‘stronger’ countries are out. Brazil? Gone. Argentina? Gone. Germany? Gone. Portugal? Gone. Italy? Didn’t even make it. If they are better than England why are they not in the last four of the World Cup? The luck of the draw? Pish. Faced stronger teams? Pish.
Let’s put aside the fact that you can only defeat what’s put in front of you, or any perceived luck of the draw, or any overt plan to manipulate fate to have an easier run in the competition, and imagine what would, or rather would not have been said should Sweden have beaten England rather than the other way around (aside from all the histrionics and personal attacks that would be spouted by the red-tops).
If Sweden had won against England to make the World Cup Semi-Finals would there have been an outcry of ‘they’ve only beaten lesser teams’ and ‘they haven’t really been tested’? Probably not (there would be too much focus on why England were out). But it is interesting to analyse what that scenario would have meant with regards to England’s quality if those statements had or had not been made.
If people did bemoan the fact Sweden had only beaten ‘lesser’ teams, then by insinuation England must have been regarded as one of them. So, if England was considered to be a ‘lesser’ team then the mere fact the country has in actuality made the World Cup Semi-Final means they are over-achieving and producing out-of-this-world performances. This is something to be celebrated and who’s to say that they would not do so against supposed stronger teams, too. After all Sweden could be classed as a stronger team as they did see off both Holland and Italy, and beat France, in qualification, and progressed at the expense of Germany in the Finals. Conclusion: England deserve to be in the Semi-Final.
If people did not believe Sweden had beaten ‘lesser’ teams to make the World Cup Semi-Final then by implication England must not be one of them. England must have been regarded as one of the ‘better’ teams. If England are regarded as one of the ‘better’ teams then it is irrelevant whether or not they have played other countries also regarded as ‘better’ teams to get to the Semi-Final. The mere fact England have only faced ‘lesser’ teams is a moot point. Again getting to the Semi-Final should be celebrated. Conclusion: England deserve to be in the Semi-Final.
So England may not necessarily have the best players to have participated in this World Cup, although Harry Kane and Kieran Trippier would make any World Cup XI, and they may not have faced the supposedly strongest opposition to get to the Semi-Final, but what they have been is one of the strongest TEAMS at the World Cup. The synergistic performances have come about through playing as a team, for the team, rather than relying on one or two superstar individuals to drag the team on.
Just look at England’s first goal against Sweden. Harry Kane clearly selflessly spoke to Harry Maguire saying he would pull his marker away with a false run to leave space for Maguire to attack. A player gunning for the Golden Boot giving the opportunity to score to someone else for the benefit of the team? Take note Ronaldo, Neymar, Sanchez.
It is refreshing that the World Cup is re-establishing the fact Football is a TEAM game and that it is the better ‘teams’ that progress the furthest. Whatever happens against Croatia (another country where their total is greater than the sum of their parts) in the Semi-Final we should be celebrating the fact that England reached the last four of the World Cup rather than questioning whether or not they deserve to be there.
Do England deserve to be in this year’s World Cup Semi-Finals? Of course they bloody do!