Two reasons why it’s best that England lose to France and exit the World Cup…

An England fan wears a Gareth Southgate mask while others celebrate the World Cup win over Senegal. Credit: Alamy
An England fan wears a Gareth Southgate mask while others celebrate the World Cup win over Senegal. Credit: Alamy

One Mailboxer reckons it’s in the nation’s best interests for England to get humped by France on Saturday. Also: a World Cup of clones; and the myth of Bryan Robson; and more.

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Why England must lose
I don’t want England to win the World Cup. Here’s why. The feelgood factor it would bring.

Britain is on its arse. The fifth richest country in the world yet we have kids going to school hungry, people choosing between eating and heating, a huge proportion of the country reliant on foodbanks, a strike every day for the rest of the year because people aren’t paid enough to have any kind of life, a shambolic health service, a failed education system, a laughable criminal justice system, multi-millionaires scamming the system to profit from the pandemic aided and abetted by their friends in government.

I could go on for pages more………

And we all should be angry. We should be up in arms. We should be revolting. But instead, like we always do, we tut to ourselves, have a moan amongst friends but ultimately shrug our collective shoulders.

And winning the WC would make things worse, especially just before Christmas kicks in. Our generally apathy as a nation would be replaced by something approaching jingoistic jubilation, people would forget all the above and be blinded by our boys bringing football home, the government would jump on the bandwagon and cynically use the win to distract from the fact that we are a third-world country in all but name, the right wing fuckwits would don their St Georges t-shirts and start singling about two World Wars and Two World Cups, we’d suddenly feel everything is ok, even if only for a couple of weeks.

But it really, really isn’t.

I want us to go out in embarrassment, thrashed six or seven nil, and bring the country crashing back down to earth. The cynics will say that we should have a little bit of joy in these dark times but no, we shouldn’t; we should all be miserable, and that misery should lead to anger and that anger to action. Will never happen though.

Vive Le France.
Joel Mahoney – Manchester


England win if they lose
I’ve woken up today and having watched the highlights of all the games (even those I’ve already watched), I am making a statement effort to change my perspective.

Yes, I remain #SouthgateOut as I don’t rate him or his in-game management or selections, but I can acknowledge that things are going well and we do indeed have a chance against France. No we’re not favourites in any way, but we should feel a degree of confidence in our chances of beating them.

Yes, I’d prefer to see Rashford on the pitch instead of either Sterling or Saka, but that’s simply because I think he’ll be more dangerous against France. With any luck, he’ll get his usual late chance to change the play and steal the headlines. But not playing our leading scorer is bizarre.

But irrespective of Southgate’s limitations, the squad we have right now is very good. In attack, we have some excellent players, and depth from the bench. Henderson has somehow decided to raise his level from the usual (even if Phillips is better) and Bellingham is majestic. Shaw is busy doing good work, Rice quietly getting on with his job very well, Stones seems to be doing well and Walker can put Mbappe in his pocket if he plays to his abilities as his prime threat is pace.

Ok, so we still have to put up with the maddening inclusion of Maguire from the start, who will almost certainly gift them a goal (certainly a chance) but even there we can look forward to memes of Maguire vs Mbappe if it goes pear shaped.

If we beat France, that’s fun and we can look forward to losing the final on penalties. If we lose to France, Southgate can go. There’s no real lose-case here.

Basically, come on England!


World Cup of clones
Shout-out to RyanB with the stunning take that Mbappe is the new Messi while Haaland is the new Ronaldo. What next, Arsenal try to walk it in the net?

People shouldn’t be too quick to write off Ronaldo. A year ago Messi was struggling in France and Ronaldo was scoring 24 goals in England, it can all change very quickly. I’m tempted to put some money on a Ronaldo header winning the world cup for Portugal.

Regarding the dancing: I prefer to see people go mental, hugging, fist-pumping, and jumping into the crowd in pure elation. If you can stop for a second and compose yourself enough to a) decide to perform a dance routine and b) remember what the routine was, do you even give much of a sh*t about the goal? I do prefer a dance to Henry’s “my sh*t don’t stink” non-celebration though.

Hope you will permit me a fourth paragraph: I have been watching this world cup and missing the pre-Guardiola era when players had identities. The cruncher, the playmaker, the skillful winger, the pacey forward, the battering ram forward. Every team plays the same now just pass, pass, pass, pass, pass while going absolutely nowhere. I watched the last El Classico a few months ago and couldn’t pinpoint what any of the players were good at other than Valverde, who is a modern-day Keane, Gattuso or Essien. The rest though? Clones.
Silvio (still can’t get my head around Wales passing backwards so often) Dante


Robbo’s myth
I see the myth of Bryan Robson scoring the fastest goal in the World Cup (at that stage) has reared its head again in your top ten England tournament performances.

Bryan ‘Robbo’ Robson scored after 27 seconds against France in the 1982 World Cup. A great achievement, a great goal, a great moment but not the quickest goal in the World Cup up to that point. As you rightly pointed out a few days ago in your article about World Cup records that might be broken Vaclav Masek scored after 16 seconds for Czechoslovakia against Mexico in 1962.

But pedantry isn’t really the point of this mail. It is more to ask why this myth has prevailed? The 1982 World Cup is barely mentioned without reference to Bryan Robson scoring the fastest goal at a World Cup (up to that point) after 27 seconds. If you Google ‘Bryan Robson fastest world cup goal’ you get thousands of articles all saying the same thing. Why?

It has since been battered and the actual record is 11 seconds. I got a free VHS by collecting Smiths Square Crisps wrappers and sending them off on which Bryan Robson himself discussed this and he said he didn’t understand where the myth came from and showed a clip of Masek scoring against Mexico.

So, where did the myth come from and why is it still used so readily when it was never true in the first place and has since been obliterated by a much quicker goal anyway? And won’t someone think of Ernst Lehner who scored after just 26 seconds for Germany against Austria in 1934?
Micki (you forgot to put ‘men’s’ in the title of the article by the way) Attridge

Have a go, Gareth
In reaction to the top ten greatest England finals performances of the last 40 years – I think this chart and the descriptions highlights what I have been feeling for a while now regarding the England team. Yes I do think we will win it one day – something I have been dreaming of all my life (I’m 51) – nothing was more exciting than watching England down the pub in a tournament with all your mates – and nothing was more crushing when it would finish with different levels of glorious failure – but my enthusiasm for it has waned. I don’t think this is completely down to getting old – there is a slight sense of having seen it too many times yes – but I think the overriding factor for my wane is the difference in how we used to play the game as opposed to how we play the game nowadays. I think ultimately the way we play nowadays will bring us a triumph one day – but it will be because we have become more efficient but undoubtedly less exciting. You feel that everything we do is part of a plan that no-one is allowed or prepared to waver from. Back in the day football seemed to be a lot more about individuals just going out there and giving a go. And sometimes it worked and sometimes it nearly worked. And that was so exciting. The unpredictability of it and the sheer will of the players to succeed – whether they did or not. Accusations of certain players not caring were way off in my opinion. Whether they gelled or not they all clearly wanted to win so much.
I have started to warm to this current team – having failed to do so over the last couple of tournaments despite how well we’ve done – it just hasnt felt the same. Which makes me sad tbh. Hopefully my emotions can be dragged out of me from within by something unexpected and glorious on Saturday – like I say I’m warming to the team – but lets just have a bit of a go yes Gareth?


Personal battles
Salivating at the thought of these quarter finals.
Intrigued by the match-ups all over the pitch for what feels, a little, like a five nations rugby World Cup game, on a damp, chilly, London Saturday but stuffed into a warm pub with loud but smiling, happy rugby lads & lasses.
Luke Shaw trying to stop Dembelé, Stones trying to stop Olly , probably the key one is Declan Rice trying to block the passing of Greizzman.
Then you have to look the other way too.
Combinations between Bellingham, Foden and Kane will hopefully bear enough juicy fruit. Perhaps slabhead can find a thumping header .
I’m supposing Holland & Southgate will try a couple of systems, featuring both Saka and Trippier, though sadly whatever the manager does he’ll get wheelbarrows-full of criticism if we lose and go out.
And England going out painfully often involves penalties, at least there, our keeper has the edge,I feel, over France’s number one.
In the end I am thoroughly behind Southgate keeping his job at least and perhaps beyond the end of his contract.
Come On England!
Peter. Andalucia.


He plays on the left, he plays on the right
Any one else thinking France could really mess with our heads and stick Mbappe on the right?


Be more Ally
Ally McCoist stands out as a football commentator in the UK for two reasons; 1) he genuinely does enjoy it, and 2) all the others are so dull and boring that he stands out by default.
I’ve long despised British football commentary because it’s full of lifeless figures who take themselves far too seriously. The problem is that the British approach is to critique the error rather than applaud the effort. So much so that any effort outwith the “norm” is pounced on and lost to a sea of moaning and despair, as if the footballer should be cursed at for daring to try something exciting. This even happens when such attempts are successful! One example that irrefutably proves this was the reaction (or lack thereof) to Lamela’s outrageous rabona he scored against Arsenal a couple of years ago. Go and compare Spanish commentary to British commentary for that goal and it’s night and day. Why so serious British commentators? You’re not half as important (or interesting) as you think you are. Lighten up and have a bit of fun. Be more Ally.


World Cup plate
A couple of excellent mailboxes lately and good reminders of why it’s addictive reading. I am here for World Cup XIs of people who sound like they should be Scottish. Obviously the clue is that if they are at the world Cup then they definitely won’t be Scottish!

I liked the explanation of Brazils dancing. I’m more here for it as an anti-racism message however I am in the Souness of camp of think that it’s disrespectful. They won’t be dancing like that in a tough fought battle with a tougher opponent.

I read somewhere that developing football nations spend so much money on potential world Cup history only to only get three games. We have no WC football today. It seems like we can solve two problems here with the World Cup plate. A second tier trophy for the teams that finished 3rd in the group that plays on the off days. Small countries like Germany get another game or two, there’s extra matches without anyone getting sniffy about it. Seems like a winner to me. Arsene call me up.
Alex, South London


Ronaldo show
I’ve just read the Sympathy for Ronaldo article which asked, among other questions, if Portugal do win the World Cup, would he get to lift the trophy.

I don’t have any inside information but I am very confident that even if Ronaldo doesn’t play again, he will be in the middle of the team, centre of attention, holding the trophy when the ticker tape cannons go off. He needs that photo to go in his folder of evidence he’s better than Messi.


European Cup
After all the hate my mail responses I got for suggesting countries coming together to beat France, or Spain, or Germany or Brazil, I feel I’m due a rebuttal. Let me start with acknowledging my Morocco mistake. Yes, they are still in it, and I will be rooting for them against Portugal. The point I was trying to make was about representation and making a dent at the world cup. The last great run by an African team was 2010, with Ghana, how far did they get, the quarters I believe. What about North America, maybe quarters as well, may have a semi between them , Mexico were good a while back, I know Asia have a semi final with South Korea at least.
My point was , and you can disagree with it, it’s becoming European Cup and every once in a while, a South American team spoils the fun. So y idea was, to try and give these teams a fighting chance. Now the logistics and compatibility could create a problem, but I’d rather watch a competitive match than a droll fest. Every once in a while you do get Morocco beating Spain, but they were like 1000 passes made, if you weren’t a Spain fan, that surely put you to sleep.
Dave(Alternative ideas welcome), Somewhere


I’nt Benayoun brilliant
Why does Yossi Benayoun always seem to feature in ‘didn’t realise he played for…’ features?

Even though Arsene was in panic-buy mode, the signings of Yossi alongside Per and Mikel that season were some of the most formative in Arsenal’s recent history.

Per is playing a key role in bringing forth Arsenal’s next generation and Mikel is responsible is for the present.

Yossi played brilliantly during his time for us though and would be a worthy addition to a list of Arsenal’s best loan signings. In fact, I think he was actually Arsenal’s best loan signing that season – even though that season also featured the return of the King.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

Read more: Every Premier League team’s player of the World Cup features three brilliant Brazilians

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