RIO DE JANEIRO — The bar fell silent.
With the exception of a couple groans and several expletives, the 50 or so fans in the Gringo Café at Ipanema Beach were heartbroken.
England’s World Cup was all but over.
“Ask me how I felt?” English fan Roy Smedley said. “I’m gutted. I’m going to have to work overtime to get to the next World Cup.”
Smedley and his wife have been to the last three World Cups each time hoping that England could replicate the magic it found in 1966 when it hoisted its only World Cup trophy.
“They’re just not good enough this time around,” Smedley said. “I hate that I just said that. I think we could have a really good team.”
Smedley’s words were a familiar refrain. England fans hate giving up on their team, but after a series of disappointments — England lost in the quarterfinals in 2006 in heartbreaking penalty kicks and then lost again in the Round of 16 in 2010 — it’s hard not to let the disappointment become part of being a fan of the Three Lions.
“It’s a bit of a shame, that’s for sure,” said Mark Weclawek, who had traveled to Rio with friends and had tickets to the game against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. “I love England but it’s difficult. Not that you come to expect it, it’s just kind of written in the script somehow.”
There’s a popular misconception about English soccer, Smedley said, that because the English Premier League is considered one of the best professional leagues in the world, that English also should be an amazing national side.
“I think it’s easy to get confused with comparing the Premier Division, which is normally 60 or 70 percent full of foreign players,” Smedley said. “So, it’s been hard to bring on younger players. We’ve actually probably had some joy in that field this year, but it’s probably too late. We’ve had to dump some players at the last minutes. We could have done with something like a younger squad 18 months ago. Wherever you watch football around the world, and especially in England, teams have done so well developing and sticking by your guns.”
England isn’t totally eliminated for the World Cup, but it’s going to need a lot of help now to make it out of group play. If Italy defeats Costa Rica on Friday and England defeats the Costa Ricans by a sizable margin and Italy beat Uruguay, the English might have a chance to advance based on goal differential.
And while English fans at the Gringo Café were somewhat inspired by the opportunity to move forward in the World Cup, they knew it’d take a lot of fortune.
“I really thought this was the team that could get into the quarterfinals,” Weclawek said. “I like Roy Hodgson, but still I don’t think he made the right decisions. He picked a good, young, aggressive squad, but I’m not sure he picked a young, aggressive team.”