Sunday, 24 June 2012
The Comfort of Failure.
And so, inevitably, England lose on penalties in the quarter finals of a major tournament.
Playing Italy, with a chance of going through to meet Germany in the semis we did, what we've become so proficient at over the last twenty years. Having spent most of the 120 minutes of the match and extra time, throwing our bodies in the way of through balls, crosses and shots, Ashley Cole rather tamely passed his penalty into the grateful hands of the Italian keeper Gianlugi Buffon after Ashley Young had over egged and smashed his effort against the crossbar. It was just left for Alessandro Diamenti to roll in the winning effort past Joe Hart to condemn all the flags of St George back to their cupboards for at least another couple of years.
Strangely though the defeat felt different. It was clearly deserved, Italy had done everything in normal time, except for put the ball in the net, but that's not stopped us from wailing and gnashing in the past. No this time there was a sense of realism and most people in the pub simply resumed the conversations they'd been involved in, in the build up to the match.
So what's changed? Perhaps the refreshing lack of expectation has kept us sane? Perhaps the knowledge that with the Olympics on the horizon all is not lost in the search for a scintillating sporting summer? Perhaps its the sense that finally Lamps, Gerrard, Terry and all the other members of the over-hyped golden generation have passed their sell by date and that we can rebuild using the nucleus of young players bloodied in this tournament? Perhaps we're just weary of disappointment? The comfort of failure needs no further excuse. If England ever win again it'll be a surprise, catching us unaware when we least expect it. Momentum built from the lowest base. A lucky deflection wrong footing the world's natural champions. It'll happen but only when we're not looking. And in tradition of English heroism, It'll be all the more glorious for that.