The Most Entertaining Story of World Cup Group Play Debate… Frustrated England Misses Tourney Climax

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

Without question, the most frustrated team – and fan base – in World Cup 2010 is from England. First, the coach, Fabio Capello, bans a certain activity that two adults enjoy very much. Then he sets up technology so he is able to, at a moment’s notice, look in on the rooms of each of his players and spy on them, just to make sure they aren’t having any special adult fun. These two extreme decisions were made and implemented before one player set foot on African soil. So much for trust.

Why these two seemingly extreme decisions? In England, at least for the World Cup, it is always win at all costs. English soccer fans care a great deal about their team. And, that makes sense. Few countries have been playing soccer as long as England. It is in the bones of the country’s residents. Like a political candidate, the coach and team must react strongly with a matching level of passion or come under fire for not caring enough – a surefire way to get lambasted by fans.

So, it is easy to understand why so much angst and frustration emanates from the fan base about a team that either underperformed in the World Cup, or just was not as good as fans would like to think it is. Combine that high charged emotion with the disappointment of the country’s Dream Team in its most important sport, and the already teeming tension becomes out of control. For example, watch as fans decry the poor officiating that negated at goal against Germany, and not the horrible defense that led to two positive counterattacks from the German side.

I could bore all of you (and probably me) with a litany of examples of English soccer fan intensity circa this World Cup. Suffice it to say, the angry fan that managed to get around security, into the team’s locker room, and angrily confront David Beckham (who isn’t even on the team) proves the point. This isn’t the one crazy English fan. This is the one that got in. And it just adds to the drama and entertainment level that English soccer has been for their too brief World Cup stint.

Back to that Dream Team idea. The U.S. has long referred to its international basketball teams as a Dream Team. It is no different for English soccer teams. Except, perhaps, it is more intense. This English team, in particular, was quite good, filled with huge stars of international renown and tremendous individual skill. The midfield, with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, was one of the best in the entire World Cup. Wayne Rooney is a world class striker and tenacious spirit while defender, and team anchor, Joe Cole is one of the most skills defenseman anywhere. In every sense, this year’s World Cup team for England is a Dream Team.

The question, when comparing this team an American basketball Dream Team, which one is it most like? There have been some excellent U.S. Dream Team’s, but there have been some highly disappointing ones as well. It appears as though this England side more like the 1994 Dream Team. Both this English World Cup team and the 1994 U.S. basketball team had similar expectations heaped upon it – neither could lose and have that be an acceptable outcome.

Fans are angry with a team that has only scored two goals in group play, and tallied only one additional goal in its round of 16 play. The 1994 U.S. Dream Team analogy would have been perfect, if England didn’t lose to spectacularly and so quickly.

So, these are interesting tidbits and anecdotes, but what’s the story part? The story is the expectations heaped on the team from fans and media all around the world. The story is the cause of all of these effects. The reason a coach feels he must ban sex from a team is because he cannot afford to have any excuses for losing, or a moment of fatigue from a player late in a game that may have been avoidable. In many ways, for the sake of future members of the English team, it is a good thing that England lost. If it had won, no future teams would be allowed to have sex, either.

Few teams in the history of international sports consistently take the drama from the field home with them after a game like English soccer teams. This is not a Web site built on making predictions, and I have no intention to start now. But it will be incredibly fun to sit back and watch the next twist in this story emerge. Just because England is out of the tournament, doesn’t mean it is out of the news. And to it will be fun to see which potentially exhausting activity the team bans next.

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