It's one of our best chances ever, says Cohen

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The Independent Football

So where were you on 30 July 1966? A difficult question for, say, the under-50s, but those of a certain age have been flocking to, a website bringing together supporters to share memories of that day. Among those discovered so far is the boy – now aged 58 – who carried the flag for England's opening game, against Uruguay.

As George Cohen, right-back in every match and now an ambassador for the website, recalls, that first game did not set the tournament or the country alight; boos were to be heard at the end of a dull goalless draw. Like 1990, the only other occasion on which England have come close, the important thing, he says, was not to lose and to build up momentum from there: "The first game wasn't too clever but in the second and third and fourth, we knew we were in with a very strong chance."

Cohen believes a favourable draw offers a useful platform for the best campaign since Sir Bobby Robson's 20 years ago, and Fabio Capello's squad may even go a step further. "I'd be really disappointed if we didn't get as far as the semi-finals and I feel we should get to the final itself," he says. "It's one of our best chances ever."

Never a fan of Sven Goran Eriksson, he finds echoes of Sir Alf Ramsey in the Italian, although last week's handling of the squad reduction to 23 players surprised him. "How it was announced was rather bitty, coming out in dribs and drabs," he says. "If I'd been one of those being left behind, I'd like to have been told face to face, not on the telephone.

"What happened in '66 was that five players [were] left out and they were told together. Alf never forgot them because the following season there was a tour to Canada in which he included them, which they enjoyed immensely. So there was never any resentment."

Knowing that his deputy at right-back was Jimmy Armfield, a former captain with 43 caps, Cohen had greater confidence than the reserves available at full-back to Capello. "Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines are a long way short of Ashley Cole, and you've got Jamie Carragher, who I'm a fan of, but not as a full-back. Glen Johnson is good going forward, and he scored a magnificent goal [against Mexico] but he doesn't know the business of defending."

As for the manager, Cohen says: "They're chalk and cheese, this guy and Sven. This man's got discipline in the right places." He adds: "Let's face it, whatever salary Capello's getting, it's a terrific job. And if we can't deal with the three teams in our group, we should take up Subbuteo."