SOMEONE had to go and do it. England's qualification for the World Cup was accompanied by much pontificating over the fact that for once the team would travel to a major tournament with realistic expectations. But that level-headed approach didn't last long. West Ham winger Joe Cole, a member of England's so-called Golden Generation that underperformed so spectacularly down the years, now thinks England can come back with the trophy. "I'm thinking England can go there and win it," Cole told BBC Sport. Paradoxically, his reasoning is that because no-one expects them to win it, the Three Lions actually stand a chance of doing so. On Wednesday, following the win over Poland that booked England's passage to Brazil, qualification was heralded as an end in itself. Writing in The Guardian, Barney Roney said: "A non-embarrassing quarter-final exit would be a minor triumph; a semi-final – let us, for a moment, dream – cause for week-long revelry in the streets. These are simply the facts now for an England team... which travels with expectations aggressively scaled back. "For now, though, simply being there is enough." By Thursday there were indications that unrealistic optimism was starting to rear its head. "Isn't there something refreshing about the fact that England will fly to the (other) home of football without suffering under the crazy expectation of final victory?" asked Dan Jones in the London Evening Standard.
"I can’t help feeling that this is a very healthy way to be approaching a World Cup. So healthy, in fact, that it probably gives Dark Horse England a great chance of winning the damned thing," he added.
He immediately insisted he was joking, but many a true word is spoken in jest. The genie was out of the bottle and England fans up and down the country nodded furtively in agreement. Now, Cole has broken the England supporters' unwritten vow of silence, less than three days after it was solemnly taken. Roy Hodgson said on Tuesday that by qualifying for the tournament England had bought a lottery ticket, expectations that it is a winning one are already on the rise. ·