Making his TFN debut, Alastair Nasmyth explores the paradox of expectations ahead of the 2014 World Cup…
As we approach the World Cup (sorry Sepp, The FIFA World Cup™) the world’s media is unwittingly (or perhaps not) doing its part as FIFA’s marketing mercenaries, ratcheting up the anticipation.
Articles such as: “Best World Cup Goals Ever” by Emile Heskey (to clarify it would be him picking them not a collection of his own), “How to win a penalty shootout” by Terry Venables, “My favorite World Cup socks” by Calvin Klein and “How to get the perfect Pitch” by Alan Titchmarsh clog up server space and squat in newspaper columns.
If we lived in a sane world this level of build up would only be seen for one off events like the Second Coming and I’m talking son of god, deity-type events not disappointing second albums or Robbie Fowler. The only thing that comes close to the disproportionate media hysteria is the hysteria over how disproportionate the media is being only adding fuel to the fire by giving the publicity publicity. And as an educated rational human being of 29 years (and 11 months) I absolutely love it!
Like a Derren Brown trick suddenly I’m imbued with the thirst for match reports from the 1966 World Cup, intimate knowledge of the Concaconcaconacaf qualifying group, the up and coming starlets of the Algerian squad and reading another interview with Pele to find out which team he has jinxed in his prediction for the cup.
But most of all I love the expectations that follow England. More misplaced emotion, unexpected plot twists, naïve love, bi-polar mood swings, blind hate and sarcasm than a HBO fantasy drama. One has to feel sorry for us England fans often looking like dogs chasing our own tales. When England expects, the pressure is too high for the (cough) mentally fragile players. How can these (cough, cough) professional players be expected to deal with such demands? Well luckily this time there is no pressure as Roy has craftily managed, just like he did at Liverpool, to lower expectancy of what his team can achieve. Leaving qualification to the last match in an easy group so as not to get anyone dreaming too big and then orchestrating two further losses a month later to make sure all sails were truly empty of wind.
Unshackled from the oppressive weight of the countries burdening expectations, this small nation’s players can at last be free to express themselves to their full potential without fear of being this year’s Gareth Southgate. Or so you would think, but in a catch 22 scenario the lack of pressure is increasingly being interpreted as a sign of providence.
As we get closer to the tournament and pretty much everyone else plays down our chances the more we find ourselves saying “Well, the pressure’s off now so we should play well,” to the point where as we approach the end of extra time in the quarter finals and penalties approach, with the rest of the world predicting our imminent departure from the tournament the England fans will be booking tickets to Rio and sowing another star onto their shirts. Roy will be back to square one trying to get penalty volunteers from a group of eleven players paralyzed by fear of being immortalized by a vegetable based pun on the front page of The Sun. And so the circle is complete.
Good luck England (but not too much).