“Considering the suggestive nature of this photograph, I’ve got off pretty lightly
on the caption front,” thought Capello
Eddie The Eagle. Tim Henman. Jonathan Creek when he pretends to be stupid on QI. The English love a loveable loser. Success isn’t always essential as long as you're amiable in your mediocrity. And if Peter Andre has thought us anything, it’s the loser doesn’t even need to be English to be embraced in the nation’s bosom.
You’d think that Fabio Capello returning home from the World Cup with 23 of them would be like a delirious dream for the country, but it hasn’t worked out that way. The crucial difference was the ‘loveable’ part. Fabio Capello served up defeat with healthy servings of dethatched superiority and that makes it a problem. You may have won several leagues and European Cups, but ignore the sage wisdom of an overweight tabloid hack and there’ll be hell to pay. It may explain why when he returned home from the World Cup the mood was less ‘oh well, it’s only halfway into a four year project’ and more ‘off with his head! Give ‘Arry the job.’
The Euro 2012 qualification campaign is being portrayed as a watershed moment and a chance for England to start fresh, leaving the miserable past behind. Without wanting to piss on the parade, the revolution is missing one crucial ingredient €“ any semblance of change. Kind of like replacing GMTV with Daybreak €“ different breakfast show, same feeling of wanting to poke our eyes out. It’s a case of out with the old, in with the able to stay vertical as England start upon the long winding road that will eventually end in a spanking by Germany. As much as Capello might like to flush away the remnants of the miserable trip to South Africa and start anew, he’s left with a lot of familiar faces. Those disinterested and infuriating familiar faces. Faces with bad groomed facial hair which will add further insult to Italian injury. Even worse than being left with the players that failed so convincingly at the World Cup, he’s had to augment them with a whole host of players he only couple of months ago reckoned weren’t good enough to fail at a World Cup.
But even this collection of bad footballers and bad facial hair should be expected to account for Bulgaria. The Bulgarians aren’t the typically tricky Eastern European stereotype of old. First and foremost, Dimitar Berbatov has decided to devote his efforts solely to looking cool and nonchalant as he strolls around the Old Trafford pitch every few days, occasionally attempting an elaborate flick. That denies them not only their main Dracula lookalike, but perhaps more importantly, their key source of goals. With Dimi watching safely from his lookalike spooky castle, the unrelated Petrov brothers are the highest scorers in the squad and over the years in the Premier League they've found the net only slightly more than the yet to be caught Banjofish (probably because it doesn’t exist). With an inexperienced defence and strikers that don’t tend to do a lot of striking, they’re like England only cheaper – the Lidl equivalent of England.
A winning start is pretty much essential. Not only to get everyone’s hopes up before dashing them when it actually comes to the tournament, but also because it’s a group trickier than you'd think on first inspection. Group of Death would be stretching it, but Group of Minor Irritation Along The Lines Of A Stubbed Toe would be more accurate. Switzerland have been regulars at international tournaments and have that uncanny knack of boring superior teams into dull draws and before you know it, it’s you heading towards the uncertainty of the playoffs while the Natis pat themselves on the back for inventing the Toberlone and qualification.
With some good emerging talent and motivation that comes from the anti-English rage at the Charlotte Church Show being cancelled, Wales are likely to provide more of a challenge than in recent campaigns. Even the whipping boys aren’t exactly standing around waiting for a flogging. Montenegro were at the 2006 World Cup in the form of Serbia and Montengero. We like to ignore all the political and cultural issues and blithely compare it to Batman and Robin. Tired of being constantly in the shadow of his partner and the constant whispers about what they get up to in the Batcave, Robin has made a grab for freedom. He’s going it alone and although he has to prove himself in the Superhero Rankings, he'’ got a bit of pedigree. Don’t be surprised if he has more to offer than homoerotic undertones.
And as a postscript – proper international matches on a Friday? What malevolent trickery is Blatter up to now? Normally we have to wait until Saturday until a disappointing international result ruins our weekend, but now we can fume as we munch away on our Crunchies. It makes watching X-Factor on Saturday all the more sadly inevitable. If we find out a mysterious investor from Switzerland has bought the controlling stake in Simon Cowell’s manboobs we’ll know what’s happening.
England v Bulgaria Betting