World Cup - E****nd's chances

Guest writer Joe Harle looks at England. Plus some of the choicer comments from English supporters.


Here’s a first for England supporter Joe Harle gives us his take on the World Cup and on Anglo-Scottish rivalry.


By Joe Harle

That all true patriotic Scots align themselves with their closest neighbours and unconditionally support England in Friday’s World Cup quarter final against the favourites and four times World Cup winners Brazil.

Wishful thinking? The notion that thousands of Scots from Stromness to Selkirk will pack out pubs and clubs to cheer on England’s finest seems fanciful, even laughable.

There has always been a keen rivalry between England and Scotland and this is particularly true when it comes to football. Lately, relations between these oldest of sporting adversaries seems to have degenerated into outright enmity.

Until recently the majority of English supporters would undoubtedly have supported Scotland in any major football tournament - witness the romantic affection and attachment to Ireland’s World Cup odyssey.

Many in England are surprised and dismayed that the Scots seem so openly hostile and critical of the team and its chances. The English reaction to this antagonism from north of the border is twofold.

Firstly, it appears that the success of England has invoked feelings of intense jealousy. The prevailing view down here seems to be that the Scots are jealous of the success England have enjoyed so far in the tournament, jealous because they are not party to the greatest show on earth, the footballing carnival taking place on the other side of the world.

There is no doubt that many Scots must be envious of the fantastic reception the England fans have received from their Japanese hosts. The absence of any hooliganism or ill feeling has elevated England’s following to the position normally occupied by the ‘Tartan Army’, that of the most popular travelling support, sociable and gregarious, fraternising with rival fans and locals alike.

Let us not kid ourselves that the blight of hooliganism has been consigned to the past, a past littered with many broken bottles and even more broken bones, but a different attitude seems prevalent among the England fans in Japan, receptive to local customs and culture they are there to enjoy the party not spoil it.

The hooligans are still at large, prevented from travelling by the great distances involved or by the authorities. They will return and will continue to wreak havoc until they are confronted and shouted down by the majority of decent fans, including those wearing furry lion costumes. The self-regulation that the Tartan Army have employed to clean up its act should be used as a template to help eradicate the odious behaviour so often displayed by these so called ‘fans’.

Secondly, if there is a feeling of antipathy directed at the English from Scotland then the overriding emotion the English have for the truculent Scots at present is one of apathy.

England simply do not consider Scotland worthy of attention
. In footballing terms our rivals are the Germans, the Argentinians, the giants of the world game and not a team ranked 54th in the world who have failed to qualify for the last two major tournaments.

This is where we feel we belong, on the world stage, in the last eight of the World Cup.

Contrary to popular opinion not everyone in England believes we will win the World Cup, a sizeable percentage swept along on a wave of euphoria patently do, but we do believe we can compete at this level and we expect to.

If the Scots want to attack our team we can shrug it off, in fact we probably wouldn’t bother to reply. Although any match between England and Scotland would undoubtedly be closer than the form book suggests - indeed Scotland triumphed at Wembley at the last meeting - Berti Vogts' present team of youngsters, journeymen and dilettantes would surely struggle to give Saudi Arabia anything more than a routine workout. To be ignored by your closest rivals is surely anathema to the proud Scots.

Disliked? Certainly. Loathed? Yes please. Ignored, never! On a more positive note most Scots are knowledgeable about football and can see through the English media hype and sensationalism that is accompanying the team.

To my mind the team is not playing well at the moment, squeezed tightly into Sven’s tactical straightjacket they seem reluctant to come out and really play.

Technically, England have looked to be one of the most limited teams in the competition, during long spells of the games against Sweden, Denmark and Nigeria the team played some of the most unattractive football seen in the tournament to date. The results have been impressive but not the manner of the victories.

There is real talent in the squad, the number of world class players can vary between one and half a dozen depending on your viewpoint. The blossoming of Rio Ferdinand has more than covered for Sol Campbell’s defensive deficiencies and Ashley Cole has added defending to his attacking prowess. At least the manager does at last appear to have settled on a consistent line-up even if it was more by accident than design.

The tactic of getting an early goal and then conceding territory and possession for the final 60-70 minutes appears to be a dangerous game to play.

It worked against Argentina but we could have so easily been undone by any one of the Argentininians relentless attacks. With a manager who has 15 years of Serie A experience it should come as no surprise that his teams display the safety first ethos but the experience of Italy should provide a warning. They were in control of the South Korea game but were eliminated due to their refusal to take the initiative and kill the game.

Can England beat Brazil? There is no reason to believe they cannot do it. If we can pass as well as Belgium and take advantage of the chances we can make it is more than possible. With an attacking triumvirate of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo there is always the possibility they will conjure up a moment of individual brilliance that it is impossible to defend against, but they have looked far from convincing at the back and lack a midfield enforcer in the Dunga role who can weld the disparate parts of this talented attacking team together.

The real test is if and when England go a goal down, they will then have to discard their defensive shackles and go looking for the Brazilians.

I believe this game will be very tight, England has not been beaten by more than one goal in a competitive game since 1993 (Holland, World Cup qualifier). I’m backing England to win with a one goal advantage.

If this South American leviathan that is standing in England’s way can be moved aside the prospect of a first championship since 1966 will be a real possibility.

I realise that this prospect would be unthinkable for our Scottish friends but one thing is certain when the game finally kicks off we know who the Scots will be supporting.

The question is: do we care?

******* always welcomes contributions from readers. Unfortunately, not all England supporters are as erudite as Joe Harle. As you'll find out if you read on...

In their own words...

Much has been made about the lack of hooliganism at the Finals and long may it continue. There have been suggestions that the thugs who follow England have stayed home. It appears that not only is that the case but they have been busy stealing computers. Here's a selection of their comments from the Bulletin Board at the World Cup Archive website aimed at those who suggested that the current England team might fall slightly short of sainthood:

YOU ARE NOW WATCHING THE 2002 FIFA WORLD CUP WINNERS! (this was at half-time in their match in the last 16)

@!#$ off you fat little dago bastard. @!#$ off back to the're ours. Never mind. Theres always a few fields full of dope going spare to sleep in

you boring, small-minded, malcontent

anti-English numbskull

Tosser !!

we know you are blinded by your anti-English hatred

"They'll Be No Transvestite Army In Japan" "You'll Have To Watch Ingerland Instead"

cheating bastard.

"name me a team England can't beat" (this was after they'd drawn with Sweden and Nigeria)


Can we just stick to the topic instead of complaining about foreigners, Anglophobes, and all that scum.


Come on you little fucker, I know you're out there.

"The Falklands War was twenty years ago and we won. Our economy is the fourth strongest in the world, your's is a joke AND we beat you at football."

I remember the last time we beat the Argies, the final score was Sea Harriers 52-Argentine Air Force NIL. I understand that Galtieri got sent off AFTER the final in Port Stanley, and Argentina's WC hopes have been Belgranoed. (UN peace and reconciliation award)

All I can say that there are plenty of rude things to say about Argentina, which creates the problem of choosing what to say. One thing I can say, I won't cry for those bastards!

"if it was on an Argie he would have tried to get the defender sent off with a dramatic roll and card waving. I don't get all of this 'England are Rasist' bollocks either" (this one wins the' Racist? Us?' award)

Fuck off home Argies

Rule Britania !!! The Hand of the Cokehead and France 98 have been avenged.

We aren't racist......we just hate pricks who shout about how English have a superiority complex and spend their life's bitching about it. (my favourite)

This could go on and on but I think you get the message. I've actually omitted some of the stronger stuff. As for the sad case who thought it was a laugh to say something 'witty' about my late mother, the less said the better.



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