Alan Shearer speaks the truth about England's World Cup arrogance
Congratulations to England.
The Three Lions have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup - all they have to do is win their next two games at the tournament in Russia.
After a defeat against Belgium in their final group game, Gareth Southgate's team ended up on the side of the draw that many perceive to have the easier route to the final. They play Colombia in the last-16 on Tuesday, and after they get past them, they will beat the winner of the tie between Sweden and Switzerland. They will then be in the last-four of the competition in Russia. Simple.
This is the narrative many supporters of the England team have told themselves over the past few days. Gary Neville said following the defeat to Belgium that England should be very positive about their chances of reaching the semi-finals of the tournament. Paul Merson told Sky Sports that he would be "shocked" if England do not reach the last-four and that Colombia are a "poor" side. The old adage of taking it game by game seems to have been discarded.
There are just a few problems with the theory that England have a semi-final place sewn up.
- Colombia are a very good side with a strong defence, creativity in midfield and a natural goalscorer in the form of Radamel Falcao up-front.
- They reached the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup. They are ranked 16th in the world and were as high as third in the rankings just two years ago.
- Even if England get past the South Americans, surely a team that lost to Iceland two years at Euro 2016 can't just dismiss the threat of Sweden or Switzerland?
- The optimism about the team has been generated on the back of victories over Tunisia and Panama.
- The last time England won a knockout game at a tournament was against Ecuador in 2006.
- Since 2006, they have beaten Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Ecuador, Slovenia, Tunisia and Panama at the World Cup.
Some perspective and a couple of home truths are badly needed to counter-balance the hype. Luckily, Alan Shearer is on hand to speak some sense about England and their World Cup hopes.
The former England captain said that the current side shouldn't fear any of the teams still in the tournament, but they also shouldn't get "carried away" and be so "arrogant" to start plotting a route to the final on July 15.
"Before the World Cup started, I saw the quarter-finals as a realistic aim, and a decent performance by a young team too, and us being in what some people perceive to be the easier half of the draw does not make a difference to either," Shearer told the BBC.
"I also don’t think we can start picking and plotting our route to the final and say we only have to beat Sweden or Switzerland in the quarter-finals and we are in the last four. With our record at major tournaments, how on earth can we be so arrogant to look ahead like that, or think we will roll anyone over? England have won two knockout games at World Cups since 1990 - against Denmark in 2002 and Ecuador in 2006 - so, before we get carried away, let's deal with Colombia first."
England play Colombia on Tuesday in the final last-16 tie before the quarter-finals begin on Friday. Southgate's side are talented and in good form. The match against Colombia should be an even contest, and neither side can afford to look past it to the quarter-finals or beyond.