Did England need to win the World Cup?

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By Creative Media News

There would be no Andrea Pirlo lesson this time. Thomas Müller and Mesut Ozil did not dismember England. Nobody got a red card. No traditional battle fatigue. On Saturday night, there was not a single Icelandic player at Al Bayt Stadium, unless one of them managed to purchase a ticket. No recurring second-half decline or midfield collapse.

There are no simple targets or effigies to burn here. Indeed, the general perception is that England performed well. Which is a plus. It’s wonderful that England performed well. England has been performing well for some years.

And yet, the outcome was identical to that of Roy Hodgson’s team in 2012, three Sven-Goran Eriksson teams, Diego Maradona’s Argentina in 2010, and Germany in 1994. Which prompts the sharp and open-ended question: does any of the preceding matter?

Did england need to win the world cup?
Did england need to win the world cup?

This is essentially a question concerning the type of footballing nation England desires to be today. How much does England require to win one of these competitions? How should success and failure be measured? Where should our expectations be aimed?

These are questions for all of us to answer, not just players and coaches and administrators and the media, but fans and the general public as well. The prevalent opinion seems to be that this time we can avoid finger-pointing and vindictiveness, set aside our need for purging and fresh blood, and simply praise a terrific performance by a fine team against somewhat better opponents.

This probably reflects progress in and of itself. The top eight in the world is not a negative accomplishment. Perhaps this is sufficient. Perhaps it’s acceptable.

This is why the French defeat was fascinating on so many levels. If you were inclined to give England the benefit of the doubt, you have virtually every escape option at your disposal.

A formidable opponent, probably the finest in the world. Appropriate team selection. A courageous, forward-thinking system with a solid performance. A successful streak of outcomes to get there in the first place. No misdeeds, preventable errors, squad discord, or off-field dishonor.

There was an element of bad luck in the referee’s judgments that went against England. Even the decisive play stemmed from a genuine unicorn occurrence: Harry Kane’s missed penalty under pressure.

How England accomplished this resulted in the most agreeable tournament loss imaginable. Nevertheless, these anticipations and evaluations do not occur in a vacuum. They build the emotional climate of a team, sensing on a subconscious level how members will react to success or failure.

Former England players have described playing in tournament games and anticipating the public and media outcry even before it occurred.

Is it therefore possible that, on some unconscious level, the very concept of a tolerable defeat could self-prophesy? Or, to put it another way, did England’s players and Gareth Southgate needs to win this World Cup enough? Did they need to win it as desperately as Lionel Messi does?

Desiring it, pursuing it, and making every effort to attain it is one thing. But should the United Kingdom be more than just proud and depressed? Because if Southgate’s England’s objective is to win a trophy at any cost, it is not working.

There are, however, other noble and valid objectives for a national football squad. Relationship between fans and the general public. Individual expressiveness and pride. Equally valuing the journey and the destination, for almost 95% of the world’s nations, the objective is simply to challenge, to give it their all, and to continue to improve.

The argument around Southgate’s future appears to exemplify this. Consider Morocco, who just advanced to the semifinals with a coach they hired four months ago. Not everything must include a comprehensive process of development, education, and empowerment. Sometimes it is necessary to collect a group of talented individuals in a room, yell a few things, and play like the hounds of hell for four weeks.

Perhaps Southgate is the man for the job. Perhaps he is not. Perhaps the next stage is to take a page from the Lionesses’ playbook and recognize when a persistent mental block demands an external force.

For all of Mark Sampson and Phil Neville’s progress, it took Sarina Wiegman, a coach who had previously reached the top step of the podium, to lead them across the finish line.

What is much more crucial is a bunch of players capable of making independent decisions on the field and recognizing the kill when it’s in their sights. Perhaps it is worth emphasizing that Carlo Ancelotti, the master of a knockout competition, is the most influential coach in the France team.

Six of them have represented him in Paris and Madrid (seven if you include Karim Benzema, originally named before injury).

Pep Guardiola, the king of the process, is the major influence in the England squad. This dynamism was once again on display: like a Guardiola side, England just persisted in their efforts, confident that the balance of play would eventually favor them.

If England and France competed in a 38-game league season, England would likely win. However, France, like Ancelotti, recognizes that you can only play the game once.

If you are a five-time winner like Brazil or a smaller country like Wales, this decision may be easy to make.

But for England, whose self-image is entwined with various contradicting motifs — colonial legacy and postcolonial pain, nationalism and internationalism, Premier League prosperity and local tribalism — it has frequently been the source of their uncertainty.

Perhaps you find all of this to be a little vague and pseudo-psychological. In truth, every national sports team must answer this question first and foremost: what do we want?

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