Heading into Euro, England Looks, Well, English

Invocat Angligenas Anglorum lacrima vires;
Quo gravior dolor est, propior medicina doloris.

The tear of the English calls up the strength of England;
The heavier the grief, the nearer is its cure.

-  from The Taking of Lincoln, MS. Cotton. Vespas. B. XIII. fol. 130.

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The heavier the grief, the nearer is its cure. Roy Hodgson and the English faithful must hope this ancient lyric rings true, at least for the month of June, as the squad heads into Euro 2012 with some dark clouds hanging over their heads. Yes, England has beaten Norway and now Belgium, both 1-0, heading into the tournament. But even Hodgson said after today’s snoozer at Wembley, in which Danny Welbeck provided the only real spark in the 36th minute, that his side needs “to do better in lots of ways,” and that “it would be better if the tournament was still two or three weeks away.”

Indeed, with only two games under Hodgson’s belt, England is shaping up well defensively, showing some disciplined organization and real grit in front of their own goal, but to say that the team is struggling offensively would be a gross (and quintessentially English?) understatement—akin to Hodgson’s quotes above. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was involved early, showing some signs of life but mostly skying the ball over the net, and even with Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe in the mix in the second half, England couldn’t muster anything resembling a coordinated attack. Belgium looked the more creative side throughout (which isn’t saying much), and with a more surgical striker may have been able to equalize or even take the lead in the second half.

The most exciting thing that the Jubilee Weekend crowd at Wembley appeared to experience was the making and throwing of paper airplanes, many of which ended up on the pitch. At ye olde Dog and Duck pub, where a handful of us watched the match with little fanfare, the pints and juke box were our methods of beating the boredom (we didn’t have any extra paper). The lyrics to the Beatles’ I Want to Tell You drifting over our heads—“I could wait forever, I’ve got time, I’ve got time, I’ve got time”—just might have symbolized an augury of things to come in the near future for the English fan; this go-round doesn’t seem to be unfolding in any kind of promising or even redeemable fashion.

Maybe a loss to France will induce the grief that will in turn produce its cure. But I doubt it.

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