DEFEAT? What defeat?
England may have lost 1-0 to Belgium but fans cheering on the Three Lions in the Red Lion pub in Cosham continued to ride the wave of optimism that has surged through the country, especially as England’s path to World Cup glory could now be easier. On paper at least.
It was easy to see why the game lacked the intensity and purpose of England’s previous two wins in Group G after manager Gareth Southgate made eight changes to the side. Belgium changed nine players. That said it all.
Both teams were fully aware that by winning the group they would be in for a trickier quarter-final tie against five-times champions Brazil, assuming they all get that far. And we know what happens against them in quarter-finals.
England now face Colombia in the knock-out stages instead of Japan but should Southgate’s men beat them, they will have the far easier task of beating Sweden or Switzerland in the quarter-finals as opposed to the Samba boys from South America.
Fans at the Red Lion felt the defeat would have no negative impact on the side – and could even be a blessing in disguise.
‘Both teams have rested so many players it really doesn’t matter that we have lost tonight,’ Gary Hollins, of Cosham said.
‘It would have been good to play our strongest team and keep the momentum going but losing might just work out better for us this way.’
The view was echoed by others. Nathan Longyear, of Portchester, said: ‘Before the World Cup I thought we had no chance but after seeing how the team has played I think we can be positive. I’ve not seen anyone better than England yet.
‘It’s difficult to know if coming runner-up in the group will make a difference but at least we won’t have to play Brazil in the quarters in all likelihood. Colombia won’t be easy though.’
Alan Bacon, of Paulsgrove, said: ‘I placed a bet before the tournament for us to get to the quarter-finals but I think we can beat anyone and go all the way from what I’ve seen so far.’
Bar supervisor Wendy McCarthy, who had been geeing-up fans in the pub, remained confident England could still do well despite the loss. ‘We will get to the final and win.’
Barman Steve Ayshford added: ‘This could work out for the best.’