Why confidence in England is up, despite drab friendlies

The Rio Report

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Confidence in England is soaring ahead of their opening FIFA World Cup game with Italy this weekend according to research from Cambridge University Press, despite a couple of uninspiring draws with Ecuador and Honduras in Miami.

Cambridge University Press researchers have created a ‘Cambridge Confidence Index’ by analysing and assessing millions of words relating to football, collected from a wide range of media sources over the past two weeks.

The Cambridge Confidence Index will analyse perceived confidence in the England team throughout the tournament in Brazil.

Cambridge University Press researchers have used their multi-billion-word written and spoken English language database, taken from a number of public sources from across the media, to analyse and assess millions of words relating to football in order to obtain the Index figure.

Despite the fact that England couldn’t find a way past either Ecuador or Honduras in their final warm-up games, commentators and fans seem to be looking forward to the upcoming games as opposed to dwelling on the past, with the Confidence Index increasing from 53 (before the friendly match with Peru) to 77 (two days after the Honduras match).

Words such as “progress”, “joy” and “strong” have increasingly been used by players, coaching staff and fans ahead of the opening match with Italy in Manaus on Saturday.

Although the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Ross Barkley have looked very promising in recent weeks, it’s the Southampton duo of young starlets Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana who have had the nation’s optimism elevating, with the pair being described as “amazing” more than any other squad members over the last seven days.

It appears that Danny Welbeck has also moved into the spotlight, having received more mentions than any other England team member, particularly when it comes to creating chances or being fouled.

However, Mario Balotelli seems to be the main worry ahead of the game against Italy this weekend, with numerous mentions of the Milan striker’s name after the Honduras match. Both professional and amateur sports pundits seem cautious over the threat the Italians pose, with words such as “tough” and “dangerous” being used to describe England’s Group D rivals.

Nevertheless, the Index suggests that England is being described as “happy” and “ready” going into Saturday’s game.

In terms of England’s warm-up opponents, it’s perhaps no surprise that the word most commonly associated with Honduras is “physical”, while Peru have been classed as “difficult”. Meanwhile, hosts Brazil, who England of course met in Rio a year ago, have been ominously described as the “best”.

Dr Claire Dembry from Cambridge University Press said, “The breadth of sources we’ve analysed means we're able to give a unique insight into the mood surrounding the England team.

“It’s interesting to see that the nation is in confident spirits ahead of the Italy game, despite some fairly lacklustre performances against Ecuador and Honduras.”

“Football fever has certainly arrived, and this is reflected in the confident language being used in the media to describe the England team, as well as the tournament as a whole. We can only hope the England performance reflects the level of optimism suggested by our Index.

“Either way, it will be interesting to see how the Index changes over the course of the competition.”

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