An Englishman, A Scotsman and An Irishman Walk Into A Studio…

Before I get into major issue of this post, I’d like to post some stats.

England have earned precisely four points (or the equivalent) after two games in several competitions in the past:

Winners: 1966 World Cup – including a goalless draw with Uruguay in the opening game that got some less than favourable write ups in the press the following day.

Semi finals: Euro 1996 – including a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the opening game that got some less than favourable reaction in the press the following day.

Quarter finalists: 1954 and 2002 World Cups, Euro 2012

Round of 16: Euro 2016

*1954 and 1966 World Cups: two points per win. Additionally there were only two group games in 1954.

Basically, when seen in the context of last night’s result against Scotland, every time England have won four points from two games in every major tournament since World War II, we’ve qualified for the next round. But if you were watching ITV last night, you’d have thought England had lost. I can understand Graeme Souness being pleased at how Scotland performed and Roy Keane did his best to be neutral but quite frankly Ian Wright was just saying the first thing that came into his head. I know everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I can’t be arsed to listen to post match speculation when it’s as knee jerk as that.

After the draw between Croatia and the Czech Republic at Hampden, the only way Scotland could qualify was by beating either England or Croatia. They failed to beat England and – just like against the Czechs on Monday – failed to score. Now Scotland will have to beat Croatia by two clear goals and hope other results go their way, including a decisive one at Wembley next Tuesday, With Austria and Finland having both already won three points and with Spain and Germany playing today. It’s an uphill struggle for them, but that’s really not our problem is it?

As for having only scored one goal so far, it’s not as if that’s unprecedented either: interestingly though, it’s only the fourth time in 24 tournaments that we’ve *not* conceded a goal in the first two games and the first time since the 2006 World Cup finals (Marcus Allbaeck of Sweden ended that particular run in the epic 2-2 draw in the last game).

As things stand after last night’s game, we’d be travelling to Denmark to meet Slovakia on Monday 28th June but as I mentioned the other day, don’t bank on it. I’m far from downbeat about England, largely because I’ve been a football fan for fifty years and we’ve been in far, far worse situations over that period.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

Update: after Monday night’s result, England are through to the next round. With four points and with a game to spare. The record continues.

When The Morning Skies Grow Red…

Right, we’ve got the usual tabloid nonsense out the way for this week (presumably Wayne will be taking  some chocolate back to Coleen in Manchester to make amends for his ‘indiscretion’ although it’s probably just as well that duty free cigarettes have been abolished) so on with the football.

Group G is already looking good (we won and Wales shot themselves in the foot yet again) and although the reporter on the BBC lunchtime news thinks this is our toughest group game, I’m going to be a bit controversial and suggest otherwise – Switzerland haven’t been doing particularly well at home and their World Cup win over eventual champions Spain was a fluke (check the stats at the bottom of the page) rather than an exhibition of how good they are at football. In fact, they featured in arguably the worst game of the entire tournament: the 0-0 draw with Honduras was far worse than our game against Algeria.

In fact, Switzerland haven’t won at home since last September when they beat Greece 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier. In the six games since then they’ve lost three and although one of those defeats was a 1-3 loss to Uruguay in March, they’ve not exactly been up against the best teams in Europe.

Making matters worse for them is the fact that we’ve won six our seven games in Switzerland since World War II and our only defeat was almost 30 years ago in a World Cup qualifier; the strange thing is, on paper the Swiss team ought to be much better. Eleven of the current squad play in the domestic Super League, although it may be significant that none of them play for current leaders Luzern. The rest play in Germany, Italy and France – which isn’t a bad mixture, but they don’t have a particularly good tournament record and they may have to go through the playoffs if we pick up three points tomorrow, which is what I’m expecting.