You work at it for years, putting in the hours, conditioning yourself to improve … and in a split second, one slip and it’s all over. Yes, I admit it, I swore in front of the kids while watching England slide to defeat against Uruguay on Thursday night.
I’d put in the hard yards on Israel’s highways, conditioning myself not to swear while in the presence of children. I’d even created an innocuous word to use as a homemade curse – “Schnauser!” (like the dog). It worked for everyday life, but once Steven Gerrard failed to make a clearing header and inadvertently set his Liverpool colleague Luis Suarez up for the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory, “Schnauser” was as ineffective as an England midfielder.
“F***!” “S***”! “F****** f***!” I howled, taking the late winner surprisingly well. My kids reacted the way kids do when any parent swears – they giggled nervously, and then looked sad at England’s demise. Those who have followed England over the years (and your writer witnessed the side’s hopelessness first-hand during the 2006 and 2010 World Cups) are groomed to expect failure. But not this early! We’ve had pathetic European championships, but our World Cup lot is usually a penalty shootout defeat at the quarterfinal stage.
In truth, nobody in England had high expectations of this side or the defense-oriented coach Roy Hodgson. There are emerging talents (Barkley, Sterling, Oxlade-Chamberlain), but no world-class players (if only Gareth Bale had been 25 miles east of Cardiff).
The Premier League may be the most hyped and visible in the world, but its top performers are all overseas stars. No stardust was sprinkled over this England squad; maybe coal dust in some cases (Jordan Henderson, James Milner, we’re talking about you), plain old dust in others (Phil Jagielka, Gerrard – who has always failed to live up to expectations in an England shirt).
And then there’s Wayne Rooney. He is paid a reported $18 million a year at Manchester United, but has developed a reputation over the years as what the English call a “flat-track bully” (someone who only does well against lesser opponents).
Although Rooney finally scored for the first time at a World Cup tournament Thursday night, he also missed several good chances. Take away the salary and he’s just a decent Premiership forward, definitely not in the same league as Suarez – who was in a wheelchair recovering from a knee operation less than a month ago but still returned to haunt England, as we all knew he would. Heck, he could have stayed in the wheelchair and he still would have scored against England. Schnauser!
English tabloid The Sun went for irony with its front-page story. Running a picture of Wayne Rooney’s crying son, the epic headline read: “Don’t cry, Kai. If Italy beat Costa RIca today … then Suarez & Co lose to Italy … and Daddy scores a couple (or maybe more) against Costa Rica … WE’RE THROUGH!” It was left to The Guardian to capture the real mood with its stark one-word headline: “Doomed!”
Thursday was a good night for South American sides, with Colombia qualifying for the knockout stages after a 2-1 victory over Ivory Coast (and Japan and Greece’s 0-0 tie, which now vies with Iran vs. Nigeria as most tedious game).
Israelis may have been conflicted over who to support during the Colombia game: The Africans, with a defender called Bamba (let’s hope it doesn’t give advertisers any ideas), or the Colombians, coached by the Jewish mensch José Pesekzman – sorry, Pekerman. With England all but out, we’re rooting for the Colombians from now on.
Italy vs. Costa Rica, 7 P.M.
France vs. Switzerland, 10 P.M.
Honduras vs. Ecuador, 1 A.M.
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