Joe Strange - Do-or-die time for England
Published: 23 Jun 2010 - 12:48:24
"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
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:joe strange
- A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.
Previous Blog Posts
- Carling Cup final shakes 'Mickey Mouse' tag
- Jack Wilshere comes of age against Barcelona
- Liverpool and Newcastle risk it all on deadline day
- Darren Bent could prove a shrewd investment
- Does anyone care about the FA Cup?
- Five predictions for 2011
- Everton prove you can't buy team spirit
- Glory glory Tottenham Hotspur
- Carroll set for career-defining England bow
- West Ham troubles show no sign of stopping
- Liverpool crisis is far from over
- Same old England, always boring
- Wenger's morals threaten Arsenal future
- Mancini is the right man for City's revolution
- Hand Chelsea the title now
- Everton v United was a modern day classic
- Rooney allegations are no surprise
- Arteta could have been an England legend
- Sweet revenge for Newcastle
- Ian Holloway is a genius
- Capello has lost the plot
- Bring on the Premier League
- My World Cup XI
- Suarez proved footballers do have brains
- Do-or-die time for England
- Spain are still favourites
- James is the right man for the biggest stage
- World Cup stage set for a King
- Why England will win the World Cup
- Top five Premier League signings of the season
- Portsmouth proud despite defeat
- Ferguson handed Chelsea the title
- Super Frankie Lampard
- Relegation class of 2010 will be long gone
- Is this the greatest Premier League season
- Portsmouth deserved their fairytale
- Manchester United are a one man team
- Ten reasons Zola has to go
- Chelsea confidence is key
- Wayne Rooney has come of age
- Aston Villa are in the ascendancy
- A dark weekend for the Premier League
- Fearless Everton are filthy rich in belief
- Soap opera on the south coast
- Why six clubs deserve to be relegated
- John Terry was already tarnished
- Magic of the Cup is alive and well
- Arsenal reveal their mean streak
- Chelsea prosper as rivals freeze