SAO PAULO – There were a few lessons to be learned at Arena de Sao Paulo on Thursday, but the most surprising was that English arrogance, at least of the soccer variety, is dead.
Because here was England, the team that carries expectation, pressure and public demand heavier into World Cups than perhaps any other nation, being pushed to the brink of elimination and condemned to a second straight defeat.
And no one was angry. No one was conducting an inquest. And frankly, no one seemed surprised.
The country that claims to have invented modern soccer, sorry, football, has at last come to terms with the reality that its current national team just isn't very good.
Admittedly, it is hard to think otherwise when you've come unstuck again, this time a 2-1 defeat to Uruguay thanks to a pair of Luis Suarez goals, but the English and their players, fans and media have long been masters of delusion.
Not any more.
"That's football. We can't complain about football," goalkeeper Joe Hart said. "It was a brilliant game and I loved part of it. It was just not quite enough from us."
Gone was the typical angst and sense of injustice and hard luck. England had just been outplayed by a better team, or perhaps more accurately, a brilliant individual in the mercurial Suarez.
Hart admitted he felt "incredibly raw" but there no longer was the feeling that England had somehow been wronged or even that it had failed to live up to its potential.
Unless a dramatic and complicated sequence of events occurs – one which requires Italy to beat both Costa Rica on Friday and Uruguay on Tuesday and England to beat Costa Rica and then survive the goal differential sweepstakes – then the English will be bounced from the tournament with barely a whimper.
That seems and feel about right. A team that isn't among the 16 best in the tournament won't make it to the round of 16. It's as simple as that.
There won't be a joyous welcome party waiting for it at the airport but people won't be throwing eggs as the plane lands on the tarmac either. They won't make Wayne Rooney a pariah for no longer being a truly world-class player or scold teenager Raheem Sterling for not being quite as dynamically productive as was hoped. Steven Gerrard won't be mocked across the pages of the tabloids for being too old and too slow, a process that happened painfully quickly.
The defense is poor but you can't go and buy new players in international soccer like so many English Premier League teams do. Both Suarez goals, a 39th-minute header and the 85th-minute winner, exposed a back line led by the best defenders England has in Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka. Rooney latched on to a Glen Johnson pass to equalize in the 75th minute but Johnson was otherwise outmatched. And Gerrard was culpable for the Uruguay winner, trying to head it backward and merely setting up his club teammate, Suarez.
"We were punished and in the end it is just disappointing," left back Leighton Baines said. "You are at the top level of the game and it is small margins. We are looking at a favor from Italy now."
In the past, that mere scenario, relying on help from a traditional rival, would have been cause for embarrassment. Now it is all the English have.
England didn't qualify for the World Cup in 1974, 1978 and 1994 and has made the semifinals only once since winning it all for the only time in 1966.
So this isn't the first time England has been bad. It's just the first time it realizes it.
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