For the first time since their historic World Cup campaign, England will be taking to the field for the first time on Saturday against Spain. The Three Lions are expected a heroes welcome, after what they achieved in the summer, however I believe we should expect more from our national side, in order to respect them as heroes.
There’s no getting away from it, England created history in Russia. For the first time in 28 years, England reached a World Cup semi-final. Fans were immensely proud of their team and we saw some unforgettable moments during a summer like no other; Kane’s late winner, six past Panama, Dier’s winning penalty in the shootout and many more moments I or any Englishman will ever forget.
By our nation’s pessimistically low expectations going into the tournament, England overachieved. However, personally I feel on the pitch England were far from outstanding:
- Opening group game versus Tunisia: England won 2-1 but only thanks to a last minute winner by Harry Kane.
- Second group game versus Panama: England turned on the style and smashed six past a poor Panama team, winning 6-1.
- Third group game versus Belgium: England lost 1-0.
- Round of 16 game versus Columbia: England drew with an average Columbia team (without their best player James Rodriguez) 1-1 and then were victorious on penalties 4-3.
- Quarter final game versus Sweden: England comfortably beat Sweden 2-0.
- Semi-final game versus Croatia: England were deservedly beaten 2-1.
- Third place playoff game versus Belgium: England lost 2-0.
When England came up against the sides they were expected to beat, unlike previous England sides they didn’t crumble and they got the job done. But, when faced against the world class teams such as Belgium and Croatia, England were well beaten.
The two games against Belgium were pretty meaningless, the first meeting the loser would get an easier run to the semi-final, whereas the winner would get a more difficult route, this meant both sides effectively played their B teams. The second meeting, the rather pointless third place playoff, meant very little to either side.
But it was the game against Croatia that gave our country unimaginable pain. When Kieran Trippier fired England into the lead, our nation watching in their living rooms, local pubs or fan parks across the country, exploded into joy, as people started to comprehend England in a World Cup final. Unfortunately, the longer the game went on, Croatia revealed their footballing superiority as they turned the game on its head and thus deserved to go through to the final.
England’s biggest names Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and co crumbled. While Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic, showed Kane how it’s done. Alli and the whole English midfield were overrun by the greatness of Luka Modric, while Sterling was a shadow of the performance of Croatian winger Ivan Perisic.
For me off the pitch was where England were most successful. Gareth Southgate and the players dealing with the media was exceptional. Southgate’s charisma and likeable personality was a real hit back home, as a sport that has been criticised and looked down upon for years, united a nation like never before. Football certainly didn’t come home on the pitch, but it might well have done off it.
It is sure to be a fantastic atmosphere at Wembley stadium on Saturday, as there is now a sense of optimism surrounding this youthful England team. A cheer for each player and a standing ovation for the team is of course essential, but things like a lap of honour and presentations are unnecessary and could be embarrassing and cringey.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!