Armchair Pundit

England are out of the World Cup

Alex Chick

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So, it's Germany. It had to be. The Germans simply don't slip up in crucial World Cup group games.

So obvious was it that they would beat Ghana and win Group D that I am actually typing this at half-time, when they are still drawing 0-0 - as things stand England will play Ghana in the second round. As if.

There's more chance of Peter Crouch and Nicolas Anelka buying an apartment together in a Southern European city, as they preposterously do in the Pringles ad that has just flicked on to my TV screen.

Sunday's game already has the ring of a classic, albeit a classic including Mesut Ozil running riot,  penalty shoot-out and national depression: Germany v England, 3pm, Bloemfontein.

But it rather throws into relief just how difficult a path to the final England now have.

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Seconds after the final whistle, the sheer relief at beating Slovenia may have obscured the colossal significance of Landon Donovan's goal for the USA against Algeria.

As they celebrated, England were relegated to second place in Group C, and handed the route to the final from hell. And of course, Slovenia were knocked out. Hard luck them.

Just how tough is it for England? Well, it couldn't be any tougher. If they manage to make it past Germany, they will most likely face Argentina in the quarter-finals. Then Spain. Then Brazil. They are the four teams England would least like to face (with apologies to Holland).

It's the team that always beats us, followed by the best team in the competition, followed by the pre-tournament favourites, followed by the country that has won more World Cups than anyone else. Nice.

The BBC pundits seemed unconcerned pointing out; a) the way England have got through, beggars can hardly be choosers, and; b) if you want to win the World Cup, you're going to have to beat some good sides.

Both fair points, but you have to beat SOME good sides, not all of them.

Italy's path through the knock-out rounds in 2006 took in Australia and Ukraine before they got down to serious business and saw off Germany and France. Four years earlier, Brazil faced Belgium, England, Turkey and Germany.

Nothing like as intimidating as what lies ahead (or, more probably, doesn't) for this England team. In fact, no team has ever won the World Cup after negotiating such an arduous fixture list.

Obvious it may be, but the harder the opponent, the more likely you are to lose. And it is easier to win two difficult games in a row than four difficult games in a row - football is not simply a case of best team wins, regardless of the draw.

Big games sap energy from teams. You can only soak up so many punches until a single shot to the chin lays you spark out.

We might beat Germany. We might even beat Germany and Argentina. But we're highly unlikely to beat Germany and Argentina and Spain. And we'll never beat Germany and Argentina and Spain and Brazil. It's just too hard.

The US, meanwhile, take on Ghana then either Uruguay or Korea. Only after that will it get really tricky, and by that stage Bob Bradley's hard-working but limited side could be in the semi-finals. America in the last four.

For England to make it to that point they would have to see off their two greatest football nemeses.

The frustrating thing is that it wasn't Donovan's goal that inflicted this on England - it was our own players' wastefulness. All we had to do was better the Americans' result, and Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe missed glorious opportunities to ensure we did just that.

Yes, under the circumstances, we should be permitted a small toot on our celebratory vuvuzelas after seeing off Slovenia.

But without wanting to sound too downbeat, our failure to run up the score means we now have no chance whatsoever of winning the tournament.

It would be lovely to be wrong, and we might even be helped out by a surprise result here and there, but I'm afraid the truth is plain:

England were knocked out of the World Cup this afternoon.

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