With the 2020/21 Premier League season veering slowly to a close and a footballing year we can happily see the back of, we look ahead to a summer of pulsating international football.
England fans have been injected with a new lease of life after Gareth Southgate has steered the England ship away from rocky shores and given the nation a new revered sense of footballing pride.
Suggested Image: Gareth Southgate at 2018 World Cup
Before Southgate, the most recent memories of English national football drawback to the shambolic and crushing defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016. The nation wallowed in a shadow of shame, the Three Lions flag had never been seen flying so low.
All felt lost and a feeling of despair and disappointment had occupied the gut of every England fan, but then a waist-coated white knight arrived. Gareth Southgate took the England office up in 2016 with the dream of shaking all of England’s rust off and giving the nation something to be proud of.
After such a swashbuckling World Cup performance, England remains joint- favourites with France on the fixed odds to lift the revered Euro trophy, with Germany, Spain and Portugal shortly following.
Suggested Image: England fans back home celebrating
The Three Lions raised some eyebrows after successfully reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018, restoring their former shame. The Golden Generation had come and gone, Southgate had built a new generation, something the country can get behind, so let’s take a look at reasons why it is coming home.
World Cup Heartache
The 2018 World Cup was truly a wonderful achievement for England and the summer will live long in the memories of fans across the country. The bitter defeat to Croatia still leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the players and fans alike, but after falling short in the semi-final, the newly-revived England team seem to have ignited an inferno that is burning in the depths of the team.
A single momentary lapse saw England crash out of a tournament that they had put their stamp on. Mario Mandžukić’s heart-breaking goal is all it took to see the Three Lions’ fairy tale end, but the goal that ended World Cup glory only helped build motivation for the team.
Suggested Image: Kieran Trippier in England kit
England sits at the top of World Cup Qualifying Group I after dispatching San Marino 5-0, putting 2 goals past Albania and then rallying to win against a venerable Poland outfit 2-1. Not a bad start to a World Cup qualifying campaign.
During the Russia World Cup, the England acolytes became the 12th man for the team. England fans ran riot in Russia — while back home pubs had proud English fans spilling out wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
Suggested Image: England fans in Russia 2018
With the 1966 World Cup trophy gathering dust, England fans have been patient in their pursuit of another piece of silverware. With no success and very few positives to hang on to in previous years, and the shame of Allardyce-gate still ringing in the ears, Gareth Southgate was a welcomed change. Armed with a waistcoat and a refreshing new footballing ethos, Southgate has given the fans something to cheer about again.
Finals at Wembley
England has the added bonus of the finals being hosted on home soil this year. The final stage of the tournament could have fallen to the Germans at the Allianz Arena, or to the Italians at the Stadio Olimpico but the footballing gods granted the finals at the home of football, Wembley Arena.
With a partisan home crowd of 90,000 adoring footballing fans, the England team might even reminisce the 1966 World Cup won at the same location.
Gareth Southgate heavily believes in youth, it’s rare to find a veteran residing in the England ranks since his tenure. The oldest player still representing the Three Lions is Ashely Young at 33, shortly followed by Jordan Henderson, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, who all sit at the ripe age of 28.
The majority of the squad is significantly younger and still have the ability to perform in three or four more major tournaments together. This bodes well for the young players to implement some chemistry and experience in the team.
This England crop has attended one penalty shootout, in which they experienced the elation of Eric Dier slotting it home against Colombia to banish their former shootout demons. The nations penalty hoodo holding above the head of the country seems to have been broken.
England’s Sublime Squad
It’s no secret that England have a profusion of world-class talent in their ranks this tournament and it looks as if Southgate is to be plagued with picking the right men for the task at hand.
Harry Kane’s phenomenal form for Tottenham and England has made him one of Europe’s most prolific strikers and England are lucky to have this man leading the lines. England also boast Raheem Sterling, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Harry Maguire who are ranked as ‘elite’.
One of England’s recent gleaming jewels is that of Jadon Sancho, who has exploded on to the scene with Borussia Dortmund. The Watford-born footballer has a £80 million price tag hanging over his head and the Bundesliga midfielder is only getting better.
With such strong spine to the team it will be interesting to see who the England manager books a flight for and who he leaves behind. Now all there is to do is bring the trophy home.
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