Joe Strange - Do-or-die time for England

23 June 2010 12:48

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." - Bill Shankly

Never has that statement been more apt than this afternoon.

At three o'clock England kick-off against Slovenia knowing that only three points will secure a safe passage through to the knockout rounds.

Draw and it's probably all over, lose and it definitely is.

For a team that qualified for the finals with nine wins from ten games, elimination at the first hurdle seems almost unthinkable. But this isn't just England that are on the brink of an early flight home – this is England's 'golden generation'.

For star players such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, South Africa 2010 was meant to be their chance to finally shine on football's biggest stage. Instead, our talented but ageing squad stand just 90 minutes away from joining France as a worldwide laughing-stock.

For a squad as experienced and skilled as ours, exiting the World Cup at the first stage is almost unthinkable. But when you consider that this is our first appearance at a major tournament for four years, it seems even more absurd.

There's no doubt that England are far superior to what they've shown us thus far, but a combination of poor performances, the wrong formation and a failure to deal with the big occasion is now threatening to cost us dearly.

For things to change for the better, the squad must try to forget the magnitude of the game they are about to play.

Captain Steven Gerrard has issued a rallying cry that fear of losing will drive England to victory against Matjaz Kek's surprise package. But it shouldn't be fear that propels Capello's men to three points this afternoon - it should be confidence, belief and ability.

We need to show that we're not just a team of good individuals but that we are in fact a great team.

It's not an overstatement to say that the hopes of a nation rest on the performance of Wayne Rooney and co today.

Let's just hope they forget about what's going on at home and concentrate on doing what we all know they're capable of - winning the World Cup.

READ JOE STRANGE EXCLUSIVELY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK

Source: DSG


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