World Cup: It's Not Won In The First Round

English pride took a battering in Friday as the team failed to spark against an Algerian side that should have been brushed aside on the basis of FIFA's ranking tables.

Football has always been more than just statistics and despite not playing well England picked up another point which leaves qualification in their own hands.

On the basis of press and public reaction you'd think this was the worst English World Cup performance ever. I suspect that after a comfortable win against Slovenia in Wednesday all we'll hear will be pundits and hacks telling us how they said there was nothing to worry about all along.

There's a history of teams building momentum through a World Cup, something Italy are past masters of: in 1982 they won the competition after starting with three very poor draws and only just scraping through the group stage. The beaten finalists that year, Germany, only came through their group after losing to outsiders Algeria...

As the Dutch often prove the finals are a marathon not a sprint and coming out of the gates like a jack-rabbit is pointless if you then get dumped straight out in the first knockout round.

Let's reserve judgement on England, France and Italy until after the tournament finishes, because the Germans have already proven, a lightning start can be followed by a quick trip back down to earth...

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