As excitement levels increase with exactly one week to go before battle commences, I find myself reflecting on the intense feelings of disappointment I have experienced over the past 44 years of World Cup combat and wonder if there is any possible way to avoid it.
The problem with being an England supporter is that my team never seem to exit a competition in a manner that leaves you feeling that justice has been done; that we were beaten fair and square by a better side.
If we look at our record since the heady days of '66, we have been eliminated in six out of the seven tournaments we have qualified for in frustrating, agonising circumstances.
Three times we have 'dipped out' on penalties (1990, 1998 and 2006), once, thanks to the 'hand of God' (1986), on another occasion to the flukiest free-kick you will ever see (Ronaldinho - 2002) and, perhaps worst of all, when were 'cake walking' our way to the next round, winning 2-0 against, of all teams, West Germany (1970) and Sir Alf decided to substitute probably our best player, Bobby Charlton, to save him for the next game. We ended up losing 3-2 but Bobby was 'fizzing fit' for his hols!
The odd one out was the non-event in Spain (1982) which saw us exit in considerably less dramatic circumstances when we failed to either concede or score a single goal in the second group stage and were eliminated by, yes you've guessed it, our nemesis West Germany.
No wonder blood pressures go off the scale when England are playing. Nothing is ever straight forward, nothing is ever clear cut. 'Why does it always rain on me,' would be an appropriate song for TV to have on hand to play as the depressing highlights of another ubiquitous failure flash across our screens.
Such despondency is, of course, exacerbated by the unrealistic expectations placed upon our team by the media and the manic all-enveloping build up to the tournament. The heightened emotion such expectation and over exposure invokes is impossible to manage on a sane level and barely a waking hour is spent on anything other than thoughts of the next match. Work suffers, our social life is decimated and life, generally, is put on hold.
I can only compare it to being in love. It is wonderful while it lasts but when the end finally comes and another disastrous penalty decider ends our dreams for another four years, the feeling in the pit of your stomach is like being dumped for the first time.
I don't think I can go through all that again so I have devised a cunning plan.five simple ways to lessen the pain.
1) Set your expectations low. Expect to reach the last 16 only and convince yourself that anything after that is a bonus. (This is inherently difficult because everyone knows that, even with Emile in the side, we cannot fail to get through the 'Group of Dearth').
2) Drink weak shandy rather than Special Brew during the matches. That way, if we do lose you won't have a throbbing head in the morning to go with that inevitable empty feeling.
3) Pick a second team to support to follow in case England do go out. Make it a team likely to win such as Spain or Brazil (but not Germany.that's a step too far).
4) Take up another interest during the tournament so you have got something to fall back on. This has to be something completely unrelated to football such as crocheting or learning a foreign language (but not German!)
5) If a match goes to penalties quickly switch your allegiance to the other side. This may be considered a treacherous manoeuvre by your mates but we'll see who has the last laugh.
If you follow these five principles, hopefully, you will remain mentally unscarred by all that is put in front of you.
If you don't, be prepared for another scary ride into the unknown.
Except, we do know don't we?
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