World Cup: Forget England, follow France

World Cup: Forget England, follow France
France's midfielder Blaise Matuidi (Center) celebrates after scoring a goal after scoring a goal during a friendly football match between France and Jamaica, on June 08, 2014.

BELO HORIZONTE - The tears get tiring. The despairing comments grow tedious. The hearts on sleeve references verge on the nauseous.

The Three Lions have a Masters in melodrama; they are graduates of the school of lame excuses.

Roy Hodgson's men limped to their worst World Cup Finals performance since 1954 - and one that threatens to get a whole lot worse against the confident, uncompromising Costa Ricans - and there is a desperate emphasis on the "positives".

Don't think about consecutive defeats, the four soft goals conceded, the miserly two scored in the on-going Brazilian goal-fest.

Ignore the brittle backline, the lackadaisical midfield and the inconsistent attack. Focus on those positives.

Raheem Sterling ran about a bit against the Italians. Wayne Rooney tapped home from two metres. The average age of the squad has dropped a fraction. No one got sent off. Try and stay with the positives.

Being at the World Cup has offered a chance to view the Three Lions beyond the prism of patriotic prejudice and the polished English Premier League product.

South Americans see England as quaint; a source of benign amusement. They watch as Roy Hodgson and his players grasp for those elusive positives like someone trying to find a keyhole in the darkness.

And then they watch France and immediately forget about England.

Hodgson has undoubtedly improved the abject squad who surrendered so negatively, so meekly at Euro 2012 - how could he not - but this is cause for a gentle shrug of the shoulders rather than generous applause.

If England were maddening mediocre two years ago, the French were openly mutinous in 2010. They reached rock bottom and kept on drilling. Archaeologists couldn't lift Les Bleus into the light.

But Didier Deschamps somehow has.

As a player, he didn't fumble around for positives, he found them. He made them.

Talent was only the beginning of the great midfielder's game. Industry mattered more. The end result was always the end result.

He was more interested in the final score, rather than heat maps and dribbling stats.

His win-at-all-costs mentality has followed him into the dugout.

Deschamps doesn't believe that moving colour magnets around on a white board equals success. Formations are less important than their execution. Application is everything.

The contrast between France's 5-2 destruction of Switzerland yesterday morning (Singapore time) and England's ponderous trotting against Uruguay a day earlier was alarming.

While the Three Lions plodded, Les Bleus plundered.

England might claim an unfair difference in personnel pedigree, but the respective line-ups would suggest otherwise.

At 34, Patrice Evra is considered by many to be over the hill and far away from the form that made him a rock of Old Trafford during their glory years.

On the other side, Mathieu Debuchy's mercurial outings at St James' Parks mirrored those of his teammates in the English Premier League

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