It could have been much, much worse. The group England has been drawn in for next summer's World Cup finals contains none of the country's traditional footballing adversaries, and none of the toughest non-seeded teams. Fabio Capello, who has enjoyed an impressive start to his tenure as manager of the England football team, evoked Napoleon's dictum about lucky generals. The draw treated his side leniently.
Algeria and Slovenia should not, on paper, present insurmountable challenges; only the US looks like a possible obstacle. But under-achievement at major tournaments has become something of a national trademark, even if England, in the end, usually negotiate the group stages successfully. And what seems the relative ease of Group C lays the trap of surprises from unheralded quarters and the pressure of higher expectations. Fans can be cruel as well as kind. Not to qualify for the knock-out rounds in South Africa would be a particularly inexcusable failure.