Well Dave, with cynicism like this I would be tempted to say you are not English, Welsh maybe?!?
The group stage was not the most convincing of displays from an English point of view, we all know that, but name me another team in the tournament who managed to come through the group stages with flying colours…
Brazil looked good yes, but can you compare Turkey with Argentina? Costa Rica with Sweden? Or China with Nigeria? The long and short of it is that every team in England's group would have expected to qualify for the second phase before the group was drawn, I don't need to go into details about each of these teams impressive footballing pedigrees.
After the Sweden game we all assumed that England collapsed in the second half, however, who's to say that Sweden didn't step up their second half showing to try and get back into the match? Looking back now both teams should be happy with getting a point. Argentina we all know about, we got the goal we deserved, if Beckham hadn't hammered in the penalty and England hadn't had the fortune of the longhaired Pochettino tripping Owen then we would have probably converted one of the other chances (Sheringham's volley after a 17 pass build up, Owen striking the post in the first half) and won anyhow, the fact is we were the better side and we got the win we deserved.
Nigeria, we needed a draw, we were playing in the blazing sun, if we had gone hell for leather and pushed for the 3 points then we would have been too tired for the Denmark showdown, this is what you have said. Ultimately we qualified and in the end probably got the easier draw.
Concerning your point on substitutions in friendlies, Sven had to make changes because the club managers will only release their players if they play for one half. For example, Alex Ferguson probably loses at least half his squad to their countries in the international week, so if he has a big Champions League game or a crunch league match coming up he does not want to risk injuries or tiredness.
People may ask why Sven does not just play them anyway and go against what the club managers say. However, if he falls out with the clubs then Arsene Wenger could just say that Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole etc have picked up a groin strain etc and they aren't fit to travel with England when really they are fine and will play the full 90 mins in Arsenal's next match.
When you think about the pre tournament injuries that we picked up before the first game kicked off then Sven probably just wanted to come through the Korea and Cameroon matches unscathed so changed the entire line-up at the midway point.
You say a lot of other teams have done better than us, I can't think of any other team who came through such a hard group stage conceding only one goal and then demolished their second round opponents in such a resounding style. Remember Denmark beat France and we made them look second rate.
Not one single team in this tournament has looked 100% convincing so far, if you look at the supposed favourites left in it, Spain only beat Ireland on penalties and hardly had a shot in the second half, Italy lost against Mexico, Germany were poor against Paraguay and Brazil were a disgrace against Belgium.
You say Ireland can be more satisfied with their performances than England, I disagree. Cameroon are probably on a par with Sweden and both Eire and England drew 1-1, so I don't see any advantage here to either side. Germany are a shadow of their former self, we beat them 5-1 of course, they looked appalling against Paraguay and Ireland drew with them 1-1 after snatching a point at the death, hardly a convincing display and they never looked in control at any stage.
England beat Argentina, they had not lost for 2 years and despite what anyone says were and still are a class side. Saudi Arabia are probably about as good as Stevenage Reserves and Ireland beat them as you would expect, they got the required result and credit to them they qualified for the second round. England also got the required result and also progressed, equal on points with Ireland and coming from a MUCH harder group.
So both teams went off to the second round, against the Spanish Ireland did play very well we all must admit, however, few people realise that Spain were down to 10 men for the entire period of extra time, Ireland could and should have pushed for the golden goal but didn't and of course were the victim of the lottery of the penalty shootout.
England beat Denmark, the press and others may have the opinion that it wasn't the best performance, however what more can they do than win? We never really looked in danger of losing and it was a comfortable and very pleasing win.
England and Brazil, 'the game of all games' as we are told. Brazil, are they as good as they used to be? They are certainly not as 'mystical' as they used to be, what I mean by this is we see all of their players in the Champions League most weeks and we know all of their strengths and weaknesses. Their defence is certainly not their strength, we all know this, Sven and the boys do as well. If they play like they did against Belgium against us then we will slaughter them, what I mean is that Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Lucio/Edmilson were constantly in the opposition half and left Roque Junior and one of the other centre halves alone in defence. If they try this against England then our midfield will nick the ball, give it to Beckham who will pick out Owen who will be left one on one with Roque Junior who is hated in Brazil by the press and believe me will not cope with his pace.
Some people believe Brazil will play better than against Belgium, however they will not change their style of play very much and will still be too cavalier and hopefully too defensively inept to cope with the confident England attack, there is no player in Brazil as powerful as Heskey…
As a final optimistic thought if you are worried about the Brazilian attack coming up against our defence, we haven't conceded a goal for 4½ hours and there is no better centre back in the tournament than Rio Ferdinand…
COME ON ENGLAND!!!!!!!!!