As England get ready to face Italy tonight in the Euro 2012 quarter final, it seems everybody is wilfully tricking themselves.
Gary Neville has claimed the following: “I believe it is a squad without ego.” And yes, he was referring to the England national team. The one with Rooney, Cole and Terry in it. England’s national team are the only people on the planet who could actually be unbearably smug about not being smug.
You would imagine even the likes of John Terry would find it hard to be smug after England laboriously chugging their way to the quarter finals after three below par performances. But he is probably too busy chatting with his lawyers in between games to do any celebrating.
England’s not playing well is fine this time around. They are allowed to stutter their way past three average teams because the ‘expectations are low.’ England’s players are suddenly no longer a collection of some of the highest paid, and highest rated sportsmen on the planet. England have suddenly morphed into the Edelweiss Pirates, scheming behind the scenes against the odds in the face of the huge enemy. And of course England are getting the luck this time, evident from the tedious giggling of the commentators as Ukraine had a goal ruled out which crossed the line.
It is an interesting change from tournaments of old, where everything and anything would be reported as going wrong. It seems now that every English person is scared to mutter one word of discontent at this Euro 2012 campaign, for fear of the whole thing deflating like a popped balloon.
It will also be interesting to see the reaction of the press if Italy win tonight. Will the shackles come off and will they finally give in to the temptation of digging into the team from every angle? Or has everyone genuinely accepted that England are not good enough? At least the players will be safe in the knowledge they will get an open top bus tour for not winning an International tournament like usual.
That is if England lose of course; they might actually win, heaven forbid.