The hype machine is conspicuous by its absence as England prepare for a major tournament with expectations as low as at any time in recent memory.
Is this a ploy from their ever-popular media to get in under the radar and then take the tournament by storm at juicy odds of 9/1 or have the experts on Fleet Street finally realised that their label of this group of players as ‘the golden generation’ was as much of a misnomer as the film title ‘The Never Ending Story’?
Anybody with even a vague familiarity of the scenario at hand, or common sense, would have to plump for the latter in this case as the disarray surrounding the English team could not be more palpable. Following a disastrous 2010 World Cup which culminated in a 4-1 spanking from their greatest rivals, a racism case surrounding their captain which saw Fabio Capello resign his position as manager and the unavailability of their best player for the opening two group games their prospects have rarely looked bleaker. Throw in a qualifying campaign which was deeply underwhelming despite starting brightly to the equation and it becomes clear that even the blinkers worn by tabloid writers couldn’t disguise what a mess England find themselves in.
The curious benefit to the team in all this though is that exact lack of expectancy, the pressure is unquestionably off a team who are generally under the glare of a fan-base delirious with delusion as soon as a ball is kicked, although usually before, and the group pairings have been kind to them. An opening tie against a France team rejuvenated under the tutelage of Laurent Blanc is as tough as the group games will get for England but should they avoid defeat in that tie subsequent matches against Sweden and Ukraine will hold no fear and the hype will return en masse for the now bi-annual display of distasteful jingoism.
In Ashley Cole, Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney England have top notch players who would be coveted by perhaps any team in Poland and Ukraine but considering theirs is a camp that seems divided almost to the point of anarchy by the John Terry saga in stark contrast to the cohesion and unity Spain, Germany and even Ireland display every time they take to the field in their nation’s colours. Take into consideration a record in major international tournaments which has consistently seen English sides capitulate when the going gets tough and it just seems a bridge too far yet again for the three lions so the only thing the “golden generation” look set to achieve this summer the years of hurt counter edging ever closer to its golden anniversary, because, in the simplest terms, they’re just not good enough to win Euro 2012.