SWITZERLAND v ENGLAND (Tuesday, 2.45am)
England are boring beyond measure.
Their repetitive rants as they rage against the media machine would be entertaining, if they weren't so irritating.
They whine because they can no longer win - or even play - convincingly and the tantrums are like fingernails on an old blackboard.
England were abject at the World Cup, as expected. They were ploddingly poor against Norway in midweek.
They'll probably trudge through the muddy mire of mediocrity against Switzerland on Tuesday morning (Singapore time).
They are almost as far away from Germany on one end of the spectrum as they are from San Marino on the other.
The Premier League is killing England's national team loudly, a savage death by a thousand greedy transfers.
You know that. Roy Hodgson knows that. And the Premier League certainly knows that. It's the same as it ever was.
With the EPL filled with bloated snouts goring at the trough, Hodgson has to make do with the runts of the domestic litter.
Jack Wilshere struggles for a place in Arsenal's best 11, but Hodgson expects the injury-prone midfielder to spearhead the centre-circle charge following the retirements of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
On paper, Wayne Rooney's (above) career has moved into the realm of comic book fantasy, with the armband for both club and country. But his fraying twitch fibres and squat, and boxer's physique are betraying his birth certificate.
So they are whining, raging, foaming at the mouth and protesting at the perceived injustices against them.
Hodgson and Wilshere have climbed to their soapboxes to fight back in recent days, defying and ridiculing their accusers.
Rooney, of course, has built a career in complaints; a bullet-headed, ragged raging bull of bitterness. He's a radical soldier in a war of the worlds - his against everybody else's.
But sympathy is difficult to come by for the labouring Lions. Their pedestrian performances are already sluggish enough. It's the bleating that's truly boring.
At the risk of being repetitive, England's brief World Cup campaign was dreadful. Being present at each match in Brazil was an experience that could only be accurately replicated by lying under a blindfolded acupuncturist using red-hot pokers.
More than a dozen of the game's highest-paid practitioners failed to beat Costa Rica.
And Hodgson praised the effort, pulling needles from haystacks in his futile search for positives. Yet his England were largely spared public condemnation, from both the media and the masses.
Steve McClaren was "the wally with the brolly" and Graham Taylor's head was turned into a turnip, but Hodgson's Three Lions got off with a mild rebuke because the game had changed.
These magnificent millionaires in their PR machines are mostly cosseted from real criticism.
As witnessed at the World Cup, the media, particularly in Britain, really does need them more than they need the media (if they want to sell product these days, they use Twitter and reach their sales demographic with a single sentence.)
Spin-doctors, communications directors and agents serve as shields, leaving the England squad mostly immune to prosecution in the court of public opinion.
That's the ugly reality that most accept with weary resignation.
Thanks to EPL clubs' propensity to spend grotesque sums to power the latest panic-stricken, short-term transfer policy, England's footballers are really, really rich, but collectively rather rubbish.
No one likes this reality, but it's accepted.
However, the moment those same footballers - and their managers - speak up to complain about their alleged hardships, all bets are off.
Jamie Redknapp's comments about Wilshere facing a make-or-break season were neither revelatory nor inflammatory.
Hodgson's Three Lions are one more archaic campaign from being exiled to Jurassic Park permanently.
And Rooney's form didn't warrant a place in the starting line-up at the World Cup. His peripheral role against Norway shouldn't earn him a place against Switzerland either.
But somehow, Hodgson, Wilshere and Rooney are right and everyone else is wrong. The world is talking "f***ing b*******" , according to the England manager.
To demand more than a single point at the World Cup and a couple of shots on target in a friendly is enough to suffer England's wrath.
But it's too much. The Three Lions have no grounds for complaint here.
Their steady decline has been mostly tolerated, but they no longer have carte blanche to abuse sceptics and insult the intelligence of their audience.
Hodgson's men are winning few friends with their football. But they'll make real enemies if they don't stop whining.
This article was first published on September 07, 2014.
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