England can still qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup if they lose to Sri Lanka. Such is the bloated nature of the tournament, they can even qualify if they lose by a similar overwhelming margin as they did against New Zealand.

But if England are going to move into the knockout stages with any confidence, with any credibility, with any realistic hope, then they have to start winning games now. Expecting to turn up for a major game and suddenly find form is naive. And a multi-million pound organisation that has supposedly planned for this event for several years should really not be trusting to luck.

If England were to produce a highlights DVD of their last five-and-a-half World Cup campaigns it would be found in the horror section of any shop.

The unvarnished truth is that, since losing the World Cup final of 1992 in Melbourne, England have only won five games against teams from the top eight of the Test rankings and none against Australia, India or New Zealand. Their other 12 victories have come against the likes of Netherlands (three times), Kenya (twice), Canada, Scotland, Ireland, UAE, Namibia, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. And there have even been some defeats along the way.

The usual suspects are blamed for such a record: the coaches, the players, the standard - and amount - of county cricket, the draining international schedule. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in each of them.

But a detailed analysis does not support such a conclusion. In between World Cups, England have played some very good limited-overs cricket. In 2012, they topped the ICC's ODI rankings. In 2013 they contested - and probably should have won - the Champions Trophy.

They won a tri-series in Australia in 2006-07 and the four-nation Sharjah tournament in 1997. They beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in 2007 and made the final of the Champions Trophy in 2004, which they probably should have won too. In 2009, they got the better of South Africa in South Africa. It is a patchy record, certainly, but it is not as hopeless as their recent World Cup record.

That suggests, perhaps, a propensity to underperform on the biggest stage. Just like their counterparts in the national football side, when England's cricketers find themselves in global events, the 2010 World T20 is an obvious exception, they seem to not so much revel in the spotlight, but become frozen in it.

While players from other teams seem inspired, England seem overawed. They seem more likely to buckle and cower than flourish. Fear of failure may well be at least as big an impediment as domestic structure or any inherent lack of talent.

It is not hard to see why. Put yourselves in the shoes of these young men for a moment: imagine your 24-year-old self addressing a press conference. Imagine your words being used against you. Imagine having a net while a member of the England support staff makes notes on a clipboard. While members of the media judge you.

Imagine, too, the last time any of this England squad played this great game for fun. Just for fun. Many of these players were talented -spotted before they were 10 and have been hot-housed ever since.

Oh, sure, they've enjoyed it many times. They will have enjoyed success. But they will also have been expected to lead the way for every team they have represented. They will have been promoted beyond their age group and, at every level, felt pressure to perform and to climb to the next rung of the ladder. Most of them will not have played a game for years without their dismissal being analysed by the media, their opponents and their own coaching team.

Add to that the layer of coaches and analysts and support staff - some excellent, some looking to justify their own existence, nearly all well-meaning - at every level. School, county age-group, England age-group, Academy, Lions... all with their views and their advice and their note-taking.

One recent England player observed that the England dressing room during Andy Flower's tenure was the most claustrophobic environment they had experienced. An environment where every movement was catalogued for dissection. The environment where a member of the support staff was told not to celebrate their birthday lest it create a distraction.

Those of us in the media do not help. Our scrutiny, propensity to over-praise and over-criticise - neither benefits in the long term - and, most of all, the sense that we are always there: watching training, watching games, watching in press conferences and on Twitter.

Former players are often the most critical. While some simply tell it as they see it - Geoff Boycott and most of the Sky team, for example - others have a clear agenda or need to produce hard-hitting comments to ensure they remain commercially popular.

Peter Moores wakes to another destruction of his methods most mornings. It must be hard for him not to ignore that and not pass on his anxiety to the team.

In recent days, "stories" have circulated about England players enjoying nights out and Eoin Morgan declining to sing the national anthem. Some even complained that, following the defeat to New Zealand, the coach and some players were seen smiling as they walked through the airport.

None of these things is the reason England have been losing. And none of them would be much of an issue if England were winning. But, coming now, they tighten the noose a little more. They increase the sensation that every move is analysed; that the world is closing in; that they're under pressure.

Cricket, in England at least, is a serious business.

And while England's joyless methodology can still work, up to a point, in Test cricket, it is an impediment to limited-overs success. For while success in Tests can be earned by denial and discipline, in limited-overs cricket success requires other skills. It requires freedom and raw skill. It's ever more about allowing instinct to take over. It's ever more about allowing the joy to suppress the pressure.

Ah, but players of every other country have the same issues, I hear you say. But no other team carries with it the same press pack. No other team has to stage an almost daily press conference. No other team has such a deep professional structure, meaning their players never develop without the complication of coaching. No other team is under quite the same sort of constant, unyielding, joyless pressure.

And we tell them to relax and be themselves? It's the last thing they know how to do.

Over-coached, over-analysed, overwrought and, very often, over all too soon. The enormity of the entire cricketing structure in England and Wales is the burden these young men must carry. If they succeed, it is despite of it.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo