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World Cup 2018: England flattered to deceive in Moscow

Mikel Tega
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
119   //    13 Jul 2018, 14:19 IST

Croatia v England - FIFA World Cup 2018 - Semi Final - Luzhniki Stadium
England players are left heartbroken after their semi-final defeat to Croatia

“It is coming home, it is coming home.” That’s the classic, merry, up-lifting tune that had for some time now been on the lips of almost, if not all, English fans; both young and old, both male and female, at home and abroad ever since the Three Lions, the English football team, won their first match against Tunisia in the ongoing 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP in Russia.

The English love the Three Lions as much as they love their tea. Maybe much more, even. So, it was no surprise when this well-known tune started trending all over social media. It was on Twitter, it was on Facebook, it was on Instagram, it was on Snapchat, it was on Tumblr, and quite surprisingly— or rather unsurprisingly— it also found its way, against all odds, into Tinder, which in a way is a different kettle of fish. Go figure!

Another thing the English love more than the Three Lions, and more than their tea, and even more than Brexit is their patriotic pride in anything that they are ‘truly’ passionate about(The word ‘Truly’ used in the strict sense)

The question is, did the English fans actually believe that it was truly coming home? Did they truly believe that this present crop of players could deliver the World Cup? Or did they just believe that singing this catchy tune was going to magically change their fortunes?

Whatever they believed, or didn’t believe, is of no relevance anymore. Or is it? Theresa May and her cabinet of disgruntled ministers might just have different opinions. Actually, they do … or rather, they did.

Bringing the World Cup home was the one thing that would have gone a long way to heal the broken hearts, to galvanize the warring political factions, and reunite a nation that looked quite united before the Brexit vote and clearly divided after it.

Passion is the watchword of the English, and Gareth Southgate, the affable, amiable, waist-coat loving coach of the Three Lions, buttressed that notion when he laid the marker during the pre-match press conference before their semi-final showdown with Croatia.

Our country has been through some difficult moments recently in terms of its unity, and sport has the power to unite,” he said. “Football, in particular, has the power to do that. We can feel the energy and feel support from home and it’s a very special feeling, a privilege.

Southgate was right. Actually, he was spot-on. But what he failed to say— or rather conspicuously omitted in his assessment of football having the power to unite a nation like England is that football also has the power to trigger a devastating earthquake that would have reverberating effects on every sector of the nation, including the NHS.

Football is that powerful, and you could see how powerful it was the night Croatia played Russia, as the President of Croatia sat in the FIFA VIP booth, or box, or cockpit, or dance floor, or whatever it’s called these days.

With FIFA, you can never be too sure. After all, it wasn’t long ago that Diego Maradona, in this same FIFA thingamabob, showed off his dancing skills with a female fan before his country’s quarter-final match against Nigeria.

It's no secret that before Wednesday's semi-final match, the Croatian president had made it a duty to attend her country's games. Always glowing with pride and full of high spirits whilst seated beside the FIFA president, who always seemed enveloped in joie de vivre, she rooted for her nation so deeply and passionately that the players themselves stepped up their game in response.

On Wednesday night, she was conspicuously absent. Duty called at the NATO summit in Brussels, and she duly responded but made sure to follow the game over dinner. But the same could not be said of Theresa May, who had never attended any of her country's games, and who on such a special day as this one, was conspicuously absent.

Perhaps, she was probably tucked away somewhere in 10 Downing Street, peeking once in a while from behind the Venetian blind to check on the paparazzi’s camped outside her residence, following up on the latest tweets about the state of the nation, and at the same time keeping an eye on the proceedings in Moscow.

But who needs Theresa May when you have Gareth Southgate, whom some passionate English citizens are clamouring for to take over the reins of leadership back home. Whoever said sports shouldn’t be mixed with politics should have a review and take a good look at Gareth Southgate as he stood on the sidelines. Cool, calm, and collected. Or maybe that’s really not the best characteristics of a politician— a good one, that is.

Anyway, everything he’d touched since the start of the tournament had turned to gold, even cautiously trying not to win against Belgium in their last group game to avoid the heavyweights of modern football: Brazil, France, Argentina; in the knockout stages. He’s that good, no doubt.

And on Wednesday night, it took only four minutes for his lads to take the lead against Croatia. Kieran Tripper, a revelation in this tournament, curled a beauty from a free kick into the top corner.

The English faithful’s chanted “It is coming home, it is coming” louder than ever before, and for a moment, England had one leg in the 2018 Fifa World Cup Finals. But one thing with having one leg in and the other out in anything, especially for a long period, is that you lack stability and composure, which inevitably leads to disaster.

England failed, or rather blatantly refused to build upon their lead, wasting chances upon chances upon chances. And like the saying goes in the football world, ‘when you miss your chances, you’ll be punished.”

Raheem Sterling, the biggest culprit of the night, probably left his scoring boots at the team hotel. The English press will surely have a field day with him, after all, he is one of their most favourite characters. The haircuts, the bling, the tattoos, name it. Anything Raheem Sterling is good news, and is, without doubt, of sterling qualities.

Harry Kane and co. dawdled with the ball for long periods of time until Croatia through Ivan Perisic equalized and silenced the English fans. And rightfully so, England were duly punished and they had only themselves to blame.

By this time, the Three Lions had run out of steam, and out of out of ideas, so they hung on for their lives, feeding on little scraps, here and there. The English fans prayed fervently for God to save the Three Lions like they have always done for the queen because another heartbreak would be too much to bear.

It was England's first semi-final in twenty-eight years, and the memories of the last time still sting their minds, their hopes, their lives. The picture of Paul Gascoigne turning on the waterworks as he received a red card, which meant him missing the final, if England won, is one eternally seared and etched into the heart of every passionate English fan.

The Three Lions fought tooth and nail until the referee blew the whistle, which meant extra time beckoned. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for their opponents, it was in extra time that the energetic Croatians through Mario Mandzukic scored the goal that sent Croatia into the finals, and poor England into the third-place game.

Once again, it was the same old song, same old tune, but different crooner.

Football, like we all know, is not Mathematics, or English Language, or Music. Football is football and anything can happen on any given day.

It was fun while it lasted, it went viral for a while, but the 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP is not coming home.

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Mikel Tega
CONTRIBUTOR
"If there is one thing in this planet that has the power to bind people it is soccer." (NELSON MANDELA). I like Soccer. I love Soccer. I live Soccer. Words have the power to bind people together, as well as, liberate them. I pray that's exactly what my articles does. I'm tall, dark, and handsome ....in Christ Jesus. Watch out for the Light!
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