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England – born to lose?

Friday, June 25, 2004

Oh my prophetic soul. What did I say yesterday, ‘plucky losers’? 120 minutes of football and 14 penalties later, that looks to have been about right. Brave and committed as England were, they lacked the skill and ambition of Portugal, and weren’t helped by the dodgy referee and the injury to Rooney.

It seems my adult life has been punctuated by the England football team losing on penalties in important competitions. We think it suits us, that we’re dogged and sturdy, but I think it just lets us off the hook.

It’s as if, if we really tried and went all out for a win, and believed we could do it, and then failed, that would be much worse. Because we’d put everything into winning, and come up short.

But last night’s display was all about putting everything into not losing – hanging on to a 1-0 lead because we somehow thought we weren’t good enough to go and get some more goals.

It’s like Tim Henman – doomed to lose in another Wimbledon semi-final – just good enough, but not too good. It’s what we tell ourselves about ourselves – it would be rude to be too good.

Contrast the Australians, whose utter professionalism and competitive nature shows in whatever sport they try. No wonder there’s a crop of excellent sprinters among Aussie cyclists – no other discipline requires such a pure desire to win at all costs.

I notice this English curse in myself – the appeal of settling for being the slightly aggrieved also-ran, rather than being as obnoxious and arrogant as necessary to achieve something great. But the England rugby team somehow managed to get themselves to think in such an Australian fashion that they beat them at home with the last kick of the game to win the World Cup, so maybe there’s hope for me yet.

(photo: football unlimited)

Posted by David in • Life