You want to see ridiculous? Here’s ridiculous. At the Times, what’s more.
In the seven World Cup Finals England have played in since 1966 they have never gone out by more than a single goal. In 1982 they were unbeaten. In 1990, 1998 and 2006 they went out on penalties. Of the rest Sir Alf Ramsey made a bad substitution, Maradona cheated and Ronaldinho scored a freak-cum-wonder goal.
The margin between success and failure is clearly very small when you are one of the best eight sides in the world, as England routinely are, and so it stands to reason that the role of luck will be amplified. So forget the debates about Walcott and Lennon and 4-5-1, the question Fabio Capello needs to ask himself is does he feel lucky.
Of course, any sane individual would know that the writer is over-reaching. One cannot say with a straight face that England had been unlucky for 44 years. Nobody is unlucky for 44 years. In most cases, they had not been good enough. I believe what the writer is really complaining about, is that for the last 44 years England has not fluked a win.
Here’s something most sports fans know. Nobody ever flukes a win in the world cup. One of the top two or three teams invariably win the WC/ Euro cup (and I agree that it might not be the best team every time, but definitely one of the best).
Here’s the easy parallel, if the third seed wins Wimbledon, it’s not a fluke. If an unseeded Boris Becker wins in ’85, it’s not a fluke because he was a soon-to-be-great, and if an unseeded Ivanisevic wins Wimbledon, it was a well-deserved (and a long time coming) win for a perennial runner-up.
England was one of the top three teams in ’66, so they had a streak of luck with the phantom 3rd goal in the final, and won. Fair enough for me (not for the Germans maybe). England were probably one of the top three teams in the ’70 WC, but did not win. Indeed, two better teams played in the finals. That’s okay, it happens. Nobody would have said that they have fluked it, even if they would have beaten that Brazil team. For all the brouhaha about the Maradona handball at the ’86 World Cup, there were many better teams than England that year.
Italy were not an excellent, exciting, swashbuckling team, but they still were one of the top three teams in the last world cup. In a very average Euro’04, Greece shaded as one of the top three teams that year, primarily because they were the most organized defensively and gave it all for each other.
England is probably not one of the top three teams in the world cup. But you only get to know this once the tournament starts. But I hope they are not, because for them to be, Argentina will have to implode. And I support Argentina in World Cups.