Well we tried, but in the end it wasn’t good enough. England in the 2018 World Cup were beaten by Croatia in the semi-finals, all the while being beaten by Belgium in the third-place game to come fourth overall.
It was an overall fun ride; watching the England team perform the best that they have done in years was so satisfying even if they were playing against teams that played dirty like Panama and Columbia, both of which we crushed during the competition.
It was a great team with a great lineup: the likes of Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier and Karl Walker performed terrifically, especially with the various goals they scored. It was a brilliant team headed up by one Gareth Southgate, giving many of his former critics (including myself, I’ll admit embarrassingly) a chance to eat their words with how strongly he coached and managed the team overall. His commitment overall was stunning; even going as far to make his players sing the national anthem to encourage a mood of team spirit among other tactics of which clearly showed their effect on the pitch as after game after game England delivered, even if their occasional
In the end, they had the whole country behind them; permeating an atmosphere of support not seen in decades. Through the MSM, public figures and general public support, there was a proud sense of patriotism and backing for a terrific team and their continuing progress in the tournament. I can still remember watching the various celebrities and politicians discuss England’s success, both on shows like the game commentaries through video clips and an edition of Question Time which indicated the positive spirit our society had towards the team. The song Three Lions was being played heavily, many people waved their England flags (including myself in my car it must be said) and the general mood of the country was an optimistic one at that point.
But then the penny dropped. England left the tournament after they lost to Croatia 2-1 in a disappointing semi-final match.
Admittedly, watching the Croatia game was quite painful; the early triumphalism that accompanied Kieran Trippier’s 5 minute free kick was sadly deflated later on in the game when after heavily defending their stance for over an hour, Ivan Perisic on Croatia’s side scored leading to their victory in extra time when Mario Mandzukic scored 109 minutes in. It was utterly painful to watch, and requesting the day off work to watch it was in hindsight not a good plan.
To be fair, it was nothing to be sniffed at. After all, it had been England’s first semi-final in a World Cup since Italy in 1990 where they lost to West Germany, the last time the latter team played before Germany became reunified later in the year. They also came fourth in that tournament too, losing to the hosts Italy in by 2 to 1. This is also the first semi-final the team have played in since the 1996 Euro Championship held in England, where they lost to Germany with ironically the current manager Gareth Southgate having lost the game by missing a penalty, leading to a 6-5 victory to Germany upon a 1-1 deadlock for the game.
So while it may have not been coming home, this significant upgrade in their play especially compared to just a decade ago whereby they didn’t even qualify for the Euros in 2008 is something to be admired indeed. Hopefully this bodes well for future competitions.
Bring on the Euros 2020 I say.