Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Not So Golden Generation

As the hysteria subsides and cries of injustice die away, England is coming to terms with the passing of what was supposedly a golden generation of footballers.

England’s 4-1 defeat to Germany was met with outrage and disbelief, and then a feeling that an entire country had been cruelly denied the glory which was rightfully theirs.

Commentators, journalists and fans alike were all incredulous that Germany had the temerity to spoil their party; overlooking how the Germans had assembled a side that plays some of the most confident, thrilling football in the world.

For once, it was not the odious players who truly soured the occasion, but the voyeuristic reaches of the media.

Frank Lampard accepted defeat manfully, and as he exchanged post-match pleasantries with Germany's excellent Bastian Schweinsteiger, there was in his weary gaze more than the distant look of a beaten man.

At 32, Lampard is a veteran English pin-up of the Premier League, and he – along with his other much-vaunted (and ultimately over-hyped) team-mates – saw this World Cup as a last shot at international immortality.

This potential glory was considered a divine right by others. The Sun boasted on their front page of England’s ‘E-A-S-Y’ group when the World Cup draw was made, and this sense of entitlement seeped through hordes of English media camped in South Africa.

The chest-beating red tops and rolling news channels were missing the point, though. Indeed, their reading of the situation was as far from reality as an Emile Heskey shot is from goal.

This, after all, was no golden generation. Since the halcyon days of a semi-final defeat in 1990, England have failed to qualify for two major tournaments and have twice been eliminated at the group stage. Golden indeed.

And even after England showed themselves to be distinctly mediocre in their plodding displays against the USA and Algeria, the media still could not fathom how a team as excellent as Germany’s could outclass their dear Three Lions so thoroughly.

England players were actually commendably mature in defeat, though the media glare around them was unrelenting. While Lampard and Steven Gerrard magnanimously accepted that they had simply been outplayed, the BBC’s Alan Hansen bleated about "average" Germans, and Sky's reporters beat the "we woz robbed" drum of self-pity deep into the Bloemfontein night.

This golden generation, we had been led to believe, simply required an alchemist to mould match-winners out of this mound of talent. Fabio Capello, a manager whose Midas touch is unquestioned at club level, was seen as the man to turn these underachievers into all-conquering champions. As this dream faded, Capello was bestowed with a new identity: the scapegoat.

In truth, however, were these players really 'underachieving'? By the lofty, and often unrealistic, expectations of a ruthlessly demanding media, nothing less than world domination would suffice.

But as long as the Premier League and its cheerleaders continue to blow their own trumpets louder than a continent of vuvuzelas, expectations of international success will remain nothing other than a blind expression of self-importance.

Apologies for the delay in posts - I've been busy writing for news.ladbrokes.com
Thanks to OptaJoe for stats.

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