- England made very hard work of beating a dire Tunisia
- The media will build up what was a very poor performance
- Germany look in even worse shape and seem in denial
England’s laborious 2-1 win over Tunisia will, no doubt, be talked up in the Fleet Street media and other supposedly more highbrow organs, but this is merely part of the delusion that English football suffers from.
Just like imagining that Brexit can be a good thing for ordinary people despite all economic evidence to the contrary, the English football team will be “encouraged” by “winning a game they might have lost in the past.” The problem is, this latter point is as delusional as David Davis.
Let’s call a spade a bloody shovel. Tunisia are a pub team, unquestionably the third worst outfit in this tournament on the evidence of what we have seen to date. Any competent side would have been out of sight by half time against this rabble. The good news for England is that the second worst team, Panama, is also in their group.
However, the media will not see it like that – and so England’s inevitable qualification to the knockout stage will be talked up when it should be set in proper context.
Despite a bright opening against a nervous and often incompetent opposition, England were fortunate to snatch victory at the death – mainly because Tunisia conceded a corner instead of a throw and decided to leave England’s one decent player free at the far post.
Harry Kane did all that was expected of him – scoring twice against fodder. He could fill his boots against Panama. Then things start to get trickier. Still, England could be Germany.
Here in Berlin, the media ripped die Nationalmannschaft a new one. “Aufwachen!” screamed Die Zeit – “wake up!”, which sounds far more condescending and upbraiding in German, that most romantic of languages, than it does in English.
Germans don’t seem ready to accept that their team could be eliminated on Saturday night. Yet, Sweden’s win over South Korea means a draw will probably put the champions out before the final group game.
Sweden will surely then only need a draw to qualify against a Mexican team who could win the group by accepting the offer of a point. How ironic that Germany could be eliminated by a non-aggression pact in Russia, 36 years after the shame of Gijon.
Joachim Löw will surely wield the axe for Saturday’s match with the team who, lest we forget, eliminated both Holland and Italy from this competition. The Swedes know exactly what to do to shut up shop. And that will be enough if the Mexicans, as expected, beat the ordinary South Koreans.
Löw’s problem is where to start. Kicker Sportmagazin, the august football bible here, rated Sami Khedira and Thomas Müller an unprecedented 5.5 on a scale of 1 to 6, where 6 is the equivalent of a pub player. Mesut Özil, Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, and Joshua Kimmich all got 5. In other words, the team suffered a collective meltdown against the Mexicans.
All of which makes it harder for Löw to rectify. Marco Reus and Julian Brandt gave themselves chances of breaking into the team with their cameos on Sunday, but there is no quick fix. The danger of infighting heightens with every passing day. Right now, Germany seem as likely to join Italy and Spain, the last two winners, out of the competition in the group stage as they do to progress.