Thursday 22 March 2018 / 10:59 AM

Reality check for the Three Lions

Following a fantastic qualifying campaign during which England won all 10 of their matches in convincing fashion, there were high hopes that the Three Lions could give Spain a tough test in Alicante on Friday night.

The reality was, the ‘test’ was anything but ‘tough’ for the Spaniards, and provided a much-needed – but nevertheless startling – reality check for Roy Hodgson’s men.

Being an England fan is always like this – waves of optimism dispelled by a crushing sense of disappointment, but yet we continue to support them in our droves.

The fact of the matter is that England never looked liked troubling a Spanish side that have had their own difficulties over the last two years, and the European Champions’ easy win told us what we all knew but didn’t dare to say: England aren’t all that.

You see, we all want England to be a great side. And despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we’re willing to latch onto anything that indicates that they might be.

Okay, so England won all their warm-up games. Did they play a team of note? Nope.

When push comes to shove, when the going gets tough, England are, time and time again, left faltering; and it’s time that we adjust our expectations.

It seemed like we had in 2010; following the thrashing handed out to Fabio Capello’s troops in South Africa. The team returned, and as fans we looked at each other and said, ‘perhaps England aren’t as good as we think they are’.

We were all fairly happy with that, but as the next four years wore on we gradually forgot that we don’t deserve to be dining at international football’s top table, and by the time the next World Cup rolled around, we were suddenly expecting our team to be world beaters.

Of course, they weren’t, and we all pretended to be surprised as first Italy, then Uruguay extinguished England’s hopes of progressing beyond the group stages.

You would have thought that two dreadful World Cups would have tempered expectations somewhat, and they did. But not for too long.

England’s perfect qualifying record led us all to believe that maybe, just maybe, Roy’s boys were now ready for the fight, they were ready to compete against the world’s best.

On the evidence of Friday, they’re not, and the sooner we realise that actually, we’re an (at best) average international team, the happier we’ll all be.

When you don’t expect anything, anything is a bonus. But when you expect something, you’ll always be disappointed by nothing.

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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