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PRINT EDITION
But what if England wins it all?
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There are pros and cons, and it depends on how you look at the possible, mostly surreal repercussions
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By JOHN DOYLE
  
  

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018 – Page B11

TORONTO -- According to reliable sources such as the BBC, there's been an outbreak of World Cup delirium in the part of Britain called England.

The weather is unusually warm. Large and excited crowds are watching the games outdoors, and it all looks jolly, jolly good for England.

The delirium is understandable: It's rarely so warm and sunny for extended periods. And, well, the last time England made it to a World Cup semi-final was 1990. Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. She was gone as PM soon after, her cabinet rebelling against her over European monetary policy.

That's weird, isn't it? Right now, Theresa May is Prime Minister, and her cabinet is in turmoil on the matter of Europe.

But if you want weird, just imagine the impact if England goes forward and wins the World Cup on Sunday. It's possible.

Croatia is one battered, bruised and tired team at this stage. The young England team is fit and rested - although not exactly "well fit," that being the English vernacular term for exceptionally attractive.

They're ordinary lads playing ordinary soccer, but they've made it work, amazingly.

There are pros and cons if England goes on and wins it all. It depends on how you look at the possible repercussions. Mostly, they're surreal.

Let's say World Cup delirium becomes an uncontrollable monster. If the team wins, the British government could collapse and nobody would notice. Brexit would be fully and totally embraced. Who needs anything foreign when England is world champion at England's game?

But the connection with Brexit is a tricky one to trade on. While all of England swells with pride, a portion of the hardline pro-Brexit crowd is already using the team as a symbol of superiority with a hint of anti-immigrant bias thrown in. What's tricky is the fact that this is England's most diverse World Cup team ever, with 11 of the 23-man squad being black or multiracial.

In addition, several players on the team could be playing for other countries. Eric Dier, for instance, could have played for Portugal - he was raised there and learned his trade with Sporting Lisbon.

Harry Kane qualifies to play for the Republic of Ireland and was briefly interested in doing that a few years ago. His granddad came from County Galway, and Kane has loads of cousins there. In fact, his cousins, Liz and Yvonne, who perform as the Kane Sisters, are a popular traditional Irish music duo in the west of Ireland. Don't mention that if England wins the tournament. Just don't.

In a post-World Cup delirium, more English-born players might be off the bench and on the field in Premier League.

It currently has the highest percentage of foreign players of any league in the world, at 69.2 per cent. Local lads might get a look-in, and that's a revolution.

There might also be a new inclination to favour English-born managers, currently considered a dying breed. And with that, the trendy tactics of gegenpressing, favoured by German manager Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, or the "twenty-zone" theory used by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City would be thrown out the window. How did England get to the end stage of a World Cup? By relying on simple set pieces. Free kicks, corner kicks and penalties win tournaments. Nothing fancy, nothing foreign-ish, just passionate and direct soccer. You can imagine that new truism being brayed in pubs throughout that green and pleasant land.

Mind you, more than a few foreign managers might refuse to endorse this primitive tactic and boycott England anyway after Brexit. Such figures as Harry Redknapp would return to top team management. His usual advice to a player he puts on as a substitute: "Go on, son, run about."

In this part of the world, if the Twilight Zone episode that has England winning the World Cup turned into reality, the pubs that show soccer would look different. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, all the English guys won't be wearing Arsenal or Liverpool shirts. They will all wear a waistcoat and shirt and tie, like national team coach Gareth Southgate. According to the British paper The Mirror - not as reliable a source as the BBC, but still - sales of the Southgate-style waistcoat have soared recently.

The chants you hear at Premier League games would be replaced by the continual singing of God Save the Queen. The next time the England team plays an international game, the singing of God Save the Queen would occasionally be interrupted by the boastful chanting of "Two World Wars and two World Cups!" Listen, all France supporters have to boast about is "Liberté, égalité, Mbappé!"

The last time England played in a tournament, it went out in the first round, defeated by Iceland. It would be strange and wonderful if England won the World Cup two years later. Bring on the delirium.

Come on, England!

Associated Graphic

England soccer fans celebrate the team's second goal as they watch a live broadcast ofthe quarter-final match against Sweden at the World Cup in Flat Iron Square in London on Saturday.

MATT DUNHAM/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


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