What if England had beaten Italy?

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You know the mantra by now, the English football team is full of technically incompetent workhorses who could not string together three passes if their lives depended on it. If this sounds familiar to you it is because they said the same thing when we were trounced 4-1 by Germany two years ago.

Less than two weeks after we scraped a 0-0 draw with Italy only to lose on penalties again, the recriminations continue. We are as they say light years behind everyone else; the Spanish victory on Sunday only amplified the different footballing Universe we exist in. Those voices who praised England for their gritty and close knit approach (and there were a fair few prior to the quarter final) have now been extinguished, with even Shearer delivering a withering response of how he could find workhorses in Newcastle City Center if that’s what impresses people.

But what if England had pulled off their attempt at Chelsea part 2, and done an Italian job on Italy? Would a semi final result have been so readily dismissed? Even if are to believe the Germans would have wiped the floor with us (unlikely when you consider their defeat to Italy) would we complain about matching the Portugal of Ronaldo? It is easy to believe pundits and fans alike would have believed the notion of glory in Brazil was tangible.

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Yes England did not deserve to get anything out the Italy game, but how many times in history have Germany and Italy done a number on more talented opponents? The record books say Germany won the world cup in 1954 and 1974, they rarely go into detail on how they were outplayed by vastly superior teams. Likewise did Denmark and Greece worry about their technical ability when they won the European Championships? Those who reproach England for their inability to keep the ball this tournament miss the point.

We already know England are technically inefficient so why go on about it after a shootout loss? Yes Italy surprised us with how dominant they were (although its laughable to see English press Eulogize about Pirlo ten years later), but Gerrard aside who in the English midfield is renowned for the passing skill? The absence of Barry, Lampard and Wilshere put paid to any realistic hopes of having a healthy share of the ball.

Yes, we should be grateful attempts are being made at grass level to rectify player deficiencies. But should we be grateful England did not beat Italy? Of course not, Germany reached the 2002 world cup final with a mediocre side, would they have cared if they won? Even before their revolutionary investment in youth began to produce an exciting crop of youngsters they had a series of near misses. England are what they are, a team just outside the top nations with the ability to be tough to beat. One day that may change, but get ready for similar episodes in Brazil 2014, and let us not hear complaints on our style of play when nothing has been done for 60 years to change it.

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