England has always been a strange side. Grace Roberton’s England retrospective shows it much better, but the basics of it all are that they were good when they were supposed to be bad, bad when they were supposed to be good and mediocre with their best, up to a point.
However, in the middle of it all, was their obsession with nostalgia. They are just a strange country, especially as an international football team, and this is where the problem begins. They have never been great on the international stage, and for a country that has been inflated as much as it has been in the past, one World Cup is simply not enough. Their record speaks for itself. Winner of the 1966 World Cup, fourth place in two other World Cups and two semi-finalists at the European Championships over the years.
As an international giant, they are far behind, however, for every tournament and any competition, England is always the favourite. Whether it’s because, in recent history, they’ve had the most marketable league in the world, and thus play in the country, or whether it’s because they can continue to produce an above-average level of talent. Either way, no one knows though because their obsession with nostalgia and making everything bigger helps the cause.
Think of Scotland, Italy, Wales, Croatia, Holland, France and every team on earth though there is a bit of drama in the German rivalry so to speak. Especially when you look at the historical figures and realize that England did not lose a match even after the 1966 World Cup. This trophy was the pinnacle of their achievement as they beat Germany 4-2 after extra time at Wembley no less. That’s why it’s been inflated so much because their record against Die Mannschaft has been so mediocre that the English have won only six out of 25 matches since then.
These losses weighed on everyone. 5-4 on penalties in the 1990 World Cup, 7-6 on penalties in Euro 1996 and 4-1 in the Round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup. Big losses, at the biggest possible stages with humiliation are a key factor in it all. Gareth Southgate missed the penalty at Euro 1996 He may have played a part in all the pre-match hype this time around but with France out, England need to stop foreplay.
Because Euro 2020 has the rare atmosphere of danger around it. Now, most international tournaments enjoy it, but the added bonus of being a tournament at the end of one of the most stressful, tiring and chaotic seasons ever just added to it all. More spice and extra drama than we all needed, but we’re enjoying it anyway because who would have imagined we’d score 14 goals, two bouts of extra time and France losing.
Just let this sink in for a moment. France, the world champions, were knocked out of the European Championships 2020 and were joined by Portugal and Croatia. The Euro 2016 The winners, the 2018 World Cup winners and 2018 World Cup runners-up. That’s just crazy, yet it’s exactly the chance that England starred in their face because this is set so perfectly for them. Three potential contenders were eliminated from the Round of 16 with Spain and Italy remaining the only real contenders.
Now don’t get it wrong, nothing in football is straightforward and this game doesn’t look like it is, however that may be as straightforward as England would like it to be. Think of it this way; There are two teams, one of which is ranked fourth in the world and tops its group, having not conceded any goals along the way and the other ranked 12th, almost finishing second in its group with four points, winning only once. Take everything away, cut it out completely and all you’re left with is that.
Two teams, at both ends of their lead with England, are easily the better side. But given the chaos that surrounded the team, the drama is neither Jack Grealish nor Jack Grealish. The drama of the four right-backs, and the drama of the center-back, the truth of it Harry King He has yet to score drama, tactics and everything. Germans have certainty about a lot of things including what they look like and who they want to play with, yet the sum of the parts is not greater than the whole.
England certainly has no problem. They have arguably one of their most talented generations, an idea and a proper cohesive structure and a manager who has an idea of what he wants to do with the team. The real problem is not that. Their real problem is the fact that this might be their chance and being England, they can shake it all off by looking back.
History is always there. You can embrace it or ignore it, but you certainly can’t erase it and yet you can’t make it identify you. He’s always staring at you, whether you like it or not, but you can’t let him define you and England has somehow managed to do that over the years. However, with Germany summarizing their coach’s ideas perfectly over the past three years and far from their usual quiet, professional, efficient and effective manner, this is an opportunity.
A chance to eradicate ghosts, a chance to do things no other English team has ever done at Euros, and with a group so well-groomed, this is their chance. Because with an arc for a round of 16, this has been set up nicely, perhaps even unfairly for some, in England’s favour and now all they have to do is reverse what they’ve done in the past.
Babe Ruth is considered one of baseball’s best players, but even he only had a 342 batting average, which is the number of hits divided by the number of bats, and he took her out of the park. But the biggest difference between England and the baseball star is the fact that he’s been a huge hit on the biggest stage possible. England needs calm, focus and get them out of the cluckin’ garden.