World Cup draw: We had an empire, and now we can't even put one past the Slovenes!

World Cups bring out the worst in England, looking back to when we ruled the world

Share

The World Cup draw this afternoon is a moment that should instil pride in us all, as we contemplate England’s battles ahead. For example I remember, as the draw began for the 2006 tournament, that I called my son, aged nine, to watch it. “What’s the point”, he said, “Even if we get drawn against Easter Island we’d lose to their statues.” So he stayed on his XBox, and I doubt I have ever been more truly proud.

This time it will be harder to avoid. Every TV and radio channel is reminding us, “We’ll be there LIVE from six in the morning to cover the build-up in slow motion, with special cameras wedged between the arse cheeks of every team’s manager so you can gauge the reaction of Roy Hodgson’s sphincter as he learns which non-seeded country England will be facing in the group stage.”

John Simpson will report on the implications of the draw on the war in Syria; on BBC4 Brian Cox will explain the impact on comets if Ghana, Spain and Belgium are all in a group of death; and Holly Willoughby will interview Nigel Farage on his complaint that England shouldn’t be classified as a European team, as by the time of the first game our side will be forced to include 80,000 Bulgarians.

All day commentators will inform us “The tension is overwhelming here. I’ve seen footage of the Normandy Landings, but I’ve never come across anything as dramatic as these moments, just six and a quarter hours until the start of the draw.”

Yesterday Metro reported “England are handed nightmare of Spain and Ivory Coast in draw rehearsal.” It shows what a resilient nation we are that we kept going at all, but with typical pluck our essential services continued to operate and some people even laughed the nightmare off with gallows humour, as we did during the Blitz.

But it might be this attitude that means we’ll never be any good, no matter who we get drawn against. Because World Cups bring out the worst in England, looking backwards to when we won wars and ruled the world, and the fans chant “No surrender, no surrender, no surrender to the IRA” despite it being 15 years since the end of the conflict with the IRA. There are probably sections of the crowd that sing, “No concessions, no concessions, at the treaty after Agincourt.”

This is why a pub during an England match in the World Cup is rarely joyous, even if we win. It’s tense and full of people snarling, “You’re USELESS Lampard”, with an underlying sentiment of “We used to control 80 per cent of global iron-ore production and now we can’t even beat poxy Slovenia.”

Maybe this is true of every nation that once had an empire, and Mongolian  phone-ins are packed with callers shouting, “We’ve got to SACK THE MANAGER Robbie, we used to rule Asia Minor, now we can’t even get out of our qualifying group, we’ve got to bring back the horde system, Robbie, that’s how we won in 1186.”

Sometimes it feels we’re almost cured from the idea that if natural order prevailed we’d win everything, but then we beat Guatemala in a friendly and it starts again, with headlines like “England have won the World Cup. The FA have asked when they can pick up the trophy but rancid Fifa officials insist England must complete the formality of playing their matches, the dirty foreign snakes.”

We’ve barely won a single match against a major team in a knock-out stage in 40 years, so it hardly matters who we get drawn against. It’s possible the system is so complicated that one of our opponents is drawn in three different groups, and has to play us at the same time as playing Argentina and racing in the Italian Grand Prix.

Our second opponent could be a group of ex-miners from Barnsley, who entered the South Yorkshire annual brass band competition at Rotherham Town Hall but seem to have slipped into World cup Group F instead, replacing Italy.

And the third team is the mountain people of Guangong, a disputed territory of Nepal, whose religion forbids them from kicking a ball and who respond to a referee’s whistle by crawling along the floor blindfold and hunting for grubs.

And we’ll still scrape a draw in the first match, draw the second, beat the mountain people 1-0 with a dodgy penalty, then go through to lose to Susannah Reid from Strictly Come Dancing.

Then will come the calls to destroy the team in a series of controlled explosions, and for Roy Hodgson to be stapled to the inside of a nuclear reactor. And then the whole process will start again.

So next time the manager must be chosen with a different method, selected at random off the electoral roll as it is with jury service. Everyone can have a go for two weeks, so we get headlines like “Mrs Whittaker from Maidstone is CLUELESS. Why are we paying this idiot £5m a year?”

Then she can be sacked and bought out of her contract, after a press conference where she admitted to missing the first half against Portugal as she had to get to Lidl for some arctic roll, because with Ronaldo coming round it’s best to have something posh for tea. And eventually we’ll be cured of imagining we stand a chance of winning, and start to enjoy the games instead.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada