Players gripped by injury fear as World Cup draws near
‘WE’VE got to win the World Cup.’ These were among the words that emerged from the heart of the English FA president, and, in particular, the chairman, Lord Triesman, in a statement issued on the eve of the group game that will decide who will qualify automatically for the first and only finals tournament of the sport in Brazil.
It was a strange sort of statement to make, to put it mildly.
The team who will face host nation Brazil on Friday night must be “competing with the best in the world,” the FA president declared.
Yet his declaration was just one part of a complicated set of messages that emerged during the course of this week in response to the announcement by Fifa that this year’s competition has been cancelled. The decision to scrap it came in the middle of last week, as Brazil were preparing their squad for the tournament in South America.
It is hardly surprising, however, that the FA’s position was as one of complete support for the decision.
That, of course, was to be expected, as it would be hard to imagine anyone – least of all the president – arguing against a decision to make the tournament an ‘event’ in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, to do the ‘business’ of the World Cup and to give it a significant degree of credibility and attention.
But the fact it has been cancelled does leave England in a very awkward position.
That is because England need to be seen to take a ‘tough’ decision on the tournament. It would be easy for England to say: “OK, we’re not going to play, we’re not going to participate, we’ve got our own tournament” – but it would not be the ‘tough’ decision that might satisfy the public and so be politically comfortable.
That, however, is not what is happening.
The only other realistic option is for England to go for the ‘safe’ decision, simply to remain on the same list as the teams who have gone before and who are not likely to go back.
That would be the right decision for England to take, but one that would be deeply embarrassing. Especially since the issue of qualification