J.S. Villiers's Blog - Posts Tagged "england"

England 2, Football 1

I'm trying to let the dust settle on a match that's proved hard to swallow. England held their breath; Croatia didn't. That was the crux of it.

But of course it all represented so much more than that. Yes, this felt like a display of old from our national side, where the overpaid footballers fail to play at their best and the fans are once again left staring at a black hole of frustration.

I don't believe, however, that that's how this side will be remembered, and rightly so. Even with a midfield that looked timid and confused for most of the match and a perpetual strategy of back-passing to Pickford, irrespective of however many attacking players were in the danger zone at the time, England never looked like a team of uninterested rich kids that wanted to get back to clubs, WAGs and tabloid rags. They looked like a team that cared.

I long ago grew highly disillusioned by the beautiful game. I lost the motivation to continue being a fan of a sport that was more famous for casual failure, hooliganism and celebrity weddings than it was for sportsmanship or a sense of striving for achievement. For me, football ceased to be about football. It became a culture of defeat and distraction.

The lack of sportsmanship is something that continues to affect the game, without doubt. The Colombia match showed how ugly football can be when a side is given the freedom to play by any dirty strategy they deem necessary. After years of crying out for some form of technology to help curb the myriad human errors that litter a poorly refereed match, we finally have the dawn of a new solution. VAR has had moments of controversy, but only the die-hard purists would attempt to claim that it hasn't made this world cup fairer than tournaments of the recent past.

But it's a fledgling system that needs a great deal of development. The weak refereeing of the Colombia match can't be resolved by a few assistants and a TV screen. The thoroughly ignored foul on Sterling in the penalty box at a crucial moment in this semi-final shows that human errors are still made all too easily, and are probably still changing the outcomes of major fixtures. This was another key reason for my past disillusionment with football - I lost the will to watch England fight both the opponent and the referee all at once. VAR is such an important step towards a game that remembers that sport isn't just about the final score. Yet it remains a slightly underwhelming improvement that needs a great deal of change to provide a real fix.

England fans have much to celebrate. The positivity displayed by the team for much of the tournament was something we haven't seen for many years. We have youth, ability and strong, honest leadership on our side.

In such a short time, England have come so far.

Football still has a very long way to go.
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Published on July 12, 2018 01:38 Tags: england, football, var, world-cup