- First there is denial (if we win the tournament playing badly, nobody will complain), then anger (these players are hopeless, we're never going to win with this useless bunch), then bargaining (you know, I wouldn't even mind if we lost to Germany/Algeria/Papua New Guinea/the Platinum All Stars just as long as we play well and don't go out on penalties), depression (oh God, what's the point, I really can't take this any more) and finally acceptance (ah well, there's always next time, I bet Roy Hodgson could sort this lot out).
What's interesting about Samuel's application of Kubler-Ross is that the grief comes before the loss, which I think says a great deal about what the England team is up against. By this, I don't mean a hostile press - I think Samuels captures pretty accurately the state of mind of England supporters - I mean the mixture of wild hope and resignation that the England players must have to fight in themselves. When Jürgen Klinsmann was on the BBC last night reminiscing with Gary Lineker about Italia 90, he said that the West German team had a conviction that year that they would win the tournament. Lineker claimed that the England players felt the same, but it's hard to really believe that they expected to win. Expecting to win isn't the same as arrogance; and England over the last forty-six years have found it impossible to achieve that frame of mind where you expect to win, but make sufficient demands of yourself in order that you will achieve victory. England tend to struggle when they are the favourite to win, but freeze when they are the underdog, stirring themselves into their best moments only when the game is all but over.
Even given all this, it's hard not to think that the response to the US match here has been something of an overreaction - especially after the results of Spain, Italy and some of the other more fancied sides. Samuel's claim about 'momentum' is dubious: sometimes teams who win the World Cup start strongly; sometimes they stumble at first. (The one thing they don't do, at least not in any of the tournaments so far, is lose the first game: an ominous sign for Spain.) I suppose the overreaction might be because people had dared to hope that Capello might have ended this syndrome (England held or beaten by teams which they really ought to have defeated). But the USA game recalled the frustrations of campaigns past, raising the fear that not even Capello can overcome England's tournament curse.
Tomorrow's game? My sense is that England do best when they operate with a less rigid formation than they used against the US, with players moving more fluidly between midfield and attack. Last week, Rooney was like a negative version of this, marooned in some ineffective no-man's-land between midfield and the forward line. I also think that using two wingers tends to leave teams overrun in midfield, and with Wright-Phillips and Lennon playing on Saturday, Landon Donovan was able to dominate the middle of the pitch. (Wright-Phillips and Lennon were also a curious choice when you recall that Rooney doesn't typically score the kind of goals that they provide assists for. In addition, using two wingers also inhibits the forward running of our two full-backs, one reason, perhaps, why Ashley Cole in particular seemed so subdued agains the States. Then you have to bear in mind that with Wright-Phillips, Lennon and Heskey on the pitch, you had three attacking players who had minimal prospects of actually scoring a goal.) Barry's return should allow that greater fluidity in midfield. In defence, what's worrying is not Green - he's unlikely to make a mistake of that magnitude again - but the prospect of Carragher playing again. It was a real blow when England lost their best central defender (not the past-it Ferdinand, but King), but it's hard to believe that either Dawson (a very accomplished centre-half, who has done well for Tottenham this year) or Upson could do worse than the labouring Carragher, horribly exposed for pace many times on Saturday.