Friday 16 July 2021

It's Coming Home (well almost)!

It was heartbreak once again last weekend when Gareth Southgate's England team fell at the final hurdle against a consistent Italy in the Euro 2020 tournament (postponed for a year due to Covid). Disappointment of how England's previous World Cup display displayed such promise, combined with our less than stellar penalty record to bring about a gut wrenching penalty shootout loss. Those missing the spot kick not only had to deal with the emotional weight of the occasion, but also racism by an idiotic few on social media platforms. It's not quite the ending we had in mind.

Despite a patchy group stage (decent showings against Croatia and the Czech Republic but a bore draw against Scotland), England really grew into the competition. The Germany group stage performance was in the balance before quality quick fire goals from  Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, the Ukraine game was a walk over, and Denmark match a good showing against a competent Danish side. Arguably losing to Italy isn't crime of the century as they are experts at doing just enough, as it attested to by being defeated in, now, 34 games. This winning streak is in fact just one short of the joint all-time record (shared by Spain - 2007 - 2009 and Brazil 1993 - 1996) .

Despite this fact the public reaction from some quarters was hyper critical. The British media, and to an extent the general public, love to build the team up just to knock them down. The default setting, somewhat at odds with the clear talent in the team, is the think that we're verging on hopeless. This flips back after a couple of good results to imagining that we're suddenly world beaters. It's always been that way really, with no balanced view of the national squad. To an extent I suppose we can call that passion, but I question how much it helps our national squad.

All eyes now turn to the 2022 World Cup, where we will once again likely see our talented young squad led by manager Gareth Southgate. Weather conditions will no doubt be more difficult to contend with, and we'll be taking on the world rather than 'just' Europe, but I for one am hopeful that we can put on a good display. Realistically, by any sensible measure we did ourselves proud in Euro 2020. Now let's build on that in Qatar. Well done, lads!

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