Cross England with the USA and the World Cup and you end up with an embarrassing blend of ritual humiliation, comical errors and goalkeeping last rites.
Start in 1950, and perhaps the most notorious defeat in Belo Horizonte, when the FA’s approach was so casual they sent Stanley Matthews via a goodwill tour of Canada and allowed Jack Aston and Henry Cockburn to tour the USA with Manchester United on the way.
Matthews missed the opener, a 2-0 win against Chile, and England’s only selector who made the trip to Brazil, Arthur Drewry, opted not to change Walter Winterbottom’s side for the second game, against the USA.
They lost 1-0, the only goal scored by Joe Gaetjens, a Haitian who would later return to his native island in the Caribbean, where he was executed by the brutal regime of Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier.
With Matthews restored to the team, England lost their final game against Spain and headed home.
In 1994, when the USA hosted the World Cup, England didn’t make it through the qualifiers, finishing third in a group behind Norway and the Netherlands — but not before they skipped across the Atlantic for a friendly against the Americans in the summer of 1993.
Things did not go well for Graham Taylor’s team, beaten 2-0 in Boston, with goals by Thomas Dooley and Alexei Lalas. Hot on the heels of headlines about turnips, swedes and Norse manure, it was cast as a new low. It turned out to be the last cap for goalkeeper Chris Woods.
Then there was South Africa in 2010. Steven Gerrard had opened the scoring when goalkeeper Rob Green bungled a routine save and Clint Dempsey’s shot spun from his hands and into the net.
Green made a decent save in the second half, pushing a shot against a post, and there was sympathy because the World Cup ball, the adidas Jabulani, was heavily criticised.
‘The football is horrible,’ said Brazil’s goalkeeper Julio Cesar. ‘Like one of those you buy in a supermarket.’ Spain’s Iker Casillas called it a ‘beach ball’.
But England had to settle for one point and Fabio Capello’s best laid plans plunged into meltdown. Within a few days, Wayne Rooney was snapping back at the booing England fans through the lens of a TV camera as he left the pitch after a goalless draw with Algeria, and John Terry was accused of leading a dressing room revolt to sort the mess out.
Other things went wrong against the USA in Rustenburg. Ledley King, recalled by Capello despite a chronic knee problem, did not make it past half-time and never won another cap. James Milner had been subbed after 35 minutes for tactical reasons.
Green, however, was Capello’s scapegoat and did not play again for the Italian. Indeed, he won only one more England cap, and that came in Roy Hodgson’s first game as manager, a 1-0 win in a pre-Euros warm-up friendly in Norway, in 2012.
There is room for improvement in Qatar.