I remember those two games you mentioned... the portugal game was pretty damn ugly.. that ref (Ivanov I believe) pulled something like 20 yellow cards... awful! The italy one is less fresh in my mind, but anyways, I think we're always contenders but tend to come up short sometimes. The lack of defensive elite players is just killing us and Van Der Sar isn't exactly a spring chicken (he'll retire from the National team after next years' championship).
On the other hand it's pretty cool that people expect so much from a country with only 16 million inhabitants and a national league that won't scare anyone (it's abiyt equal to the french one...), but if you look at the talent we do have, we should be expected to do big things.
I actually think England should be able to compete, strong national league, good balance and some awesome players... for some reason it never seems to work out.
Toni actually said (last year I believe) that he wanted to retire in Fiorentina, hence my surprise, but I could be mistaken of course.