When It Comes To Defeat, We Are The World Champions

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"THE ENGLISH don't have the will to win," said Steve Waugh, the steely-eyed, win-at-all-costs, Australian captain who today leads his mighty team into the final of the Cricket World Cup at Lord's.

It's difficult to argue with him. England's cricketers limped pathetically out of the World Cup at the earliest possible stage. Ultimately they paid the price for failing to pound far inferior opponents into the ground and losing their nerve in their crucial final game against India.

We are not alone. In the United States, home of the winning team ethic, there is a baseball team called the Boston Red Sox who also get in on the act. Even eternal losers must win something, some time, but not the Boston Red Sox - their cabinet trophy is chock full of runners-up titles, and the same goes for England.

Three World Cup finals in cricket have been lost and in football, apart from the aberration of 1966, when a Russian linesman enabled us to win the World Cup, it is little better. Even Manchester United's recent European Cup triumph was achieved with only a handful of Englishmen.

Three times in recent soccer tournaments, England have been knocked out by penalties. Scotland are no different. Over the years they have managed to chalk up impressive defeats by Peru, Morocco and Costa Rica and managed creditable draws against the footballing giants of Iran and the Faroe Islands (inevitably this has been interspersed with the occasional heroic defeat at the hands of Brazil).

The British, who invented both cricket and football only to see other nations seize on their ideas and run off with all the glory, do at least know how to lose. The traditional stiff upper lip comes in handy after all.