My emotional investment in the World Cup ended when England bowed out yesterday. Perenially content to meet expectations, they did so once again, cementing their horrible record in penalty-kick shootouts. Some English players will no doubt claim that penalties are a crapshoot, etc. Of course, they are wrong. Penalties are unfair, for sure, as they don’t accurately determine which is the better side at playing soccer, but they are not a crapshoot — some teams (that practice penalties, and study the penalty habits of opponents) consistently win, while others (that offer up excuses) consistently lose.
It’s sad that England’s in this latter category. I am somewhat fanatical about English football. I’d rather have them win the World Cup than the U.S.A. Their premier players now — Beckham, Gerrard, Owen, the Coles, etc., are, on a good day, a joy to watch. They’re honest on the pitch and earnest off of it. How can you not like them? They are the Red Sox of the World Cup — enormously talented, with great potential and a fanatical fan base, but (nearly) always insufficient in the final tally.
After tough losses you sometimes find yourself reeling for days afterwards, your daydreams (or conversations) randomly interrupted by brutal memories of the losing game that you quickly try to quell. Luckily, this loss wasn’t tough: it was well-earned (Rooney’s total idiocy) and quite expected (England’s miserable penalty performance, Eriksson’s passionless and ill-conceived managing, Rooney’s total idiocy). It’s like everyone knew the Sox had a terrible closer. How bad can you feel when he blows the final game for you?
So instead, there’s just the feeling of pointlessness. This didn’t have to happen. Well, there’s 2010 to look forward to.