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England fan blog: Don't count your chickens, Kiev!

Jola Hillier (28) from Newbury in the fanzone prior to the UEFA Euro 2012 Quarter Final match at the Olympci Stadium, Kyiv. Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

After that glorious result against Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday night we first returned for a restful day in Mariupol, a coastal resort 100km south of Donetsk. Then we took the road to Kharkiv.

This was the scene of the worst and most violent racist incident filmed in the now notorious Panorama documentary. Driving into the city I spotted a wall with ‘White Power’ painted in big white letters. Were we in for a horrible time? Not a bit of it. Around the centre plenty of different ethnicities were mixing happily - Chinese, African and Azerbaijanis in particular.

On one street, a Jewish school. Yes, there was security but no more than what I was used to seeing in Stamford Hill, where there is a large Orthodox Jewish community, and where I used to live.

On Saturday afternoon, we returned to Kiev to pick up our match tickets. The road from Kharkiv was less bumpy than the roads we've grown used to and, strangest of all, when we hit the dual carriageway there were hardly any other cars. Imagine the M1 with only a handful of other vehicles in sight!

Italy during a training session at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

My mood remains quietly pessimistic. Including 1996, I’ve watched England in four quarter-finals. ‘96 doesn’t really count. It was at home at Wembley and we squeezed past Spain on penalties after the Spanish were denied a perfectly good goal. If the game had been away I don’t reckon we would have won and Spain were by no means the team they are now.

In 2002, we lost 2-1 to the eventual winners, Brazil, after Michael Owen had earlier put us ahead. I’ve always put the reason for the defeat down to the intense heat of a daytime game in Japan.

All our best performances at that tournament were played in the cool of the evening, our worst game against Nigeria was 0-0 in Osaka. During the afternoon games us fans were sweating buckets in the stands, so goodness knows how energy-sapping it must have been for the players.

Sunday in Kiev is a night game so temperatures will be cool. That's one-nil to the Ingerland.

England face Italy tomorrow in their Quarter Final match here at the Olympic stadium in Kiev Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

2004 was Wayne Rooney’s tournament debut and the kid was both fearless and on fire. To my mind he’s never been quite as good in an England shirt. Either out of sorts, sent off or carrying an injury.

In our quarter-final against Portugal we were not only facing the hosts at home but Rooney went off injured. We still made it through to a penalty shoot-out, and exit. But if Rooney had been on the pitch for the entire game with the form he was in, I’m convinced we would have won.

In Ukraine, Rooney is rested after missing the first two games, injury free and in partnership with Utd team mates. Two nil to the Ingerland.

In 2006, it was Portugal again but this time we lost Rooney to a sending-off. Nevertheless we still made it through to a penalty shoot-out and exit. After making such a gross error to allow himself to be sent off against Montenegro and thus miss two games at Euro 2012, it's hard to believe Rooney would make such a mistake again. With Rooney on the pitch again I reckon we would have had enough to beat Portugal. Three nil to the Ingergland.

Does this mean it's looking good for Sunday against Italy?

Don’t count your chicken kievs yet. Italy won the World Cup in 2006, were finalists in 1994, semi-finalists in 1990, winners in 1982 - that’s some record and one England come nowhere near matching.

Add to that our group sixteen exits at the 2010 and 1998 World Cups, exit at the group stage at Euro 2000 and failure to qualify for Euro 2008. Quiet pessimism remains our best option. Keep the expectations low and enjoy exceeding them all the better. Oh, and don’t, whatever you do, start dreaming about playing the Germans in a semi and beating them on penalties.

That particular fantasy can wait until Monday morning.

  • Mark Perryman is a member of the LondonEnglandFans supporters' group and the author of Ingerland: Travels with a Football Nation. His views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.

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