Shattering the myth of England
Surely, the myth has been shattered once and for all.
We were told by England time and time again in the build up to this World Cup that the trophy was finally coming home, 44 years of hurt ended courtesy of the "Golden Generation," the greatest collection of Premiership stars ever assembled on one national team.
The Golden Generation? More like cheap tin.
Historically, English hubris knows no limits when it comes to the World Cup, but this time around it was especially nauseating, a classic case of them not only counting their chickens before they hatched, but counting entire hen houses.
England assured us its near-perfect qualifying campaign was a sign of things to come, pointing its finger in derision at the buffoonish Diego Maradona and how his beloved Argentina barely managed to qualify. But Diego is the one laughing now, because he understood that crossing the finish line isn't the end, but instead signals when the real race begins.
England has every right to feel aggrieved about the blown call in its 4-1 loss to Germany on Sunday, but not about the final result. For all their righteous anger over the referee's error, the annulment of a perfectly legitimate goal was nothing more than a smokescreen that Fabio Capello used in vain to conceal that the English were simply outclassed by the Germans.
At the risk of appearing to be kicking a wounded dog when it's already down, it has to be said that not only were England out-played, out-worked and out-thought by Germany, but they displayed an utter lack of conviction throughout the tournament and they did not deserve to get as far as they did.
A simple Italian proverb aptly describes the state of the English national team: "Tutto fumo e niente arrosto" - All smoke and no roast.
Perhaps the good folks and Sky Sports and Setanta have played us all for fools these past few years when each weekend they turned up the hype machine full blast and boldly trumpeted the likes of Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard among the best players in the world.
Clearly, this sporting fraud was exposed based on the damaging evidence of what took place in South Africa.
Rooney, the best striker in the world? Terry, the best centre-half in the business? Cole, the best left-back in the world? Lampard and Gerrard, among the game's top midfielders?
Are you taking the piss, mate?
It's one thing for this collection of overhyped stars to turn on the style each week against the likes of Wigan Athletic, Sunderland and West Ham in the Premier League. Quite another matter entirely to do it against an opponent the calibre of Germany on the sport's greatest stage.
England bequeathed the beautiful game to the world, and for that, the rest of us are justifiably in their eternal debt. But the team's shameful performance in South Africa mandates that the brutal truth must finally be laid bare.
So here it is: England does not rank among the game's true super powers.
It seems so obvious, so absurdly clear. And yet, the English tragically remain in denial.
It is simply amazing that every four years England naturally assumes it is a World Cup contender, as if it has some divine birth right to win the trophy.
But on what is that belief based? What has England achieved in international football since winning it all in 1966 with the benefit of a call that was every bit as contentious, if not more, than the one that went against them on Sunday?
Creator of the modern game though it may be, England has woefully underachieved in international competition, especially for a country with such a grossly inflated opinion of itself and where it ranks in the game's hierarchy.
England's one World Cup title was achieved on home soil in 1966; since then, it's been 44 years of futility with only one appearance in the semifinals (in 1990), the same amount of final-four appearances in the past 44 years as Belgium and Bulgaria, hardly two of the game's elite forces.
England can't afford to delude itself for one second more that it is a soccer super power on par with the likes of Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina.
The arrogance with which the custodians of the English game carry themselves is appalling, and it has lead to a culture of entitlement that has afflicted its national team for the better part of four decades.
Forget about firing Fabio Capello, radically changing the make-up of the team, or investing in youth development.
A change in attitude must come first - a long overdue admission from England that it is simply not good enough.
Only when it finds humility can England move forward.
About the Author
John F. Molinaro is a reporter for CBCSports.ca whose chief love is soccer.
John served as senior editor of CBC's 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup website and was the driving force behind our coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. His work on CBC Sports Online's Euro 2004 site earned him a CBC.ca Award of Excellence.
He holds an honours BA in sociology from York University and a print journalism diploma from Sheridan College.