Leading article: England expects (not much)

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The Independent Online

Not the Group of Death, then, but the Group of Pluck. The draw for the World Cup could not have been more ostensibly favourable to England if David Beckham had been allowed to fix the balls himself. It is, therefore, the worst outcome for England in the worst of all possible worlds. Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay and Sweden. Potential giant killers all. (Although Sweden are in a slightly different category, as a second-tier footballing nation that England have failed to beat in living memory.)

The trouble with the draw is that it is a fairy story in which England have been cast as the giant. As any student of the national psychology knows, it is not how the English like to see themselves. This is not the Blitz spirit, alone against the odds. The English are supposed to be the plucky amateurs, up against the cynical, handballing professionals. The English are the nation that put the under in dog; invented the myth of Drake's insouciance in the face of the Spanish Armada; devised the two-line tactic that allowed Nelson to overcome superior numbers at Trafalgar. The English do not like it when the hi-tech branded football boot is on the other foot. We fear the worst.