For those who have taken an interest in these blogs you will know that in my pre-tournament blog I stated the following:
“We know what we are getting with Southgate, he is a defensive minded coach with a ‘let’s not lose the game’ mentality. He see’s England’s strengths as a counter attacking team as opposed to a team who can play on the front foot. As a Nation we hope that he takes the shackles off and that he lets this young team just go out and express themselves, playing football as if they were that young lad playing on the playground.
Reality is as much as we dream of that, if we won every game 1-0 in the group. Drew every knockout game 0-0 and won 4 in a row on penalties would any of us really care? Yes, it would be boring, yes it would put us to sleep but if the result is Harry Kane lifting the trophy…”
I think the above pretty much sums up the performance by England so far in the tournament. Depending on whether you are a glass half full or glass half empty type person will determine how England are perceived so far:• P3 W2 D1 L0 – When was the last time England went unbeaten in a group?• No goals conceded – The weakness pre-tournament was the defence, last time we kept 3 clean sheets in the group was 1966!
We should be delighted at how easily in the end we have progressed, but the reality is this team and tournament for that matter hasn’t gripped the nation like we know it could have. Stadiums not full I’m sure will have had an impact, the fans can generate an atmosphere for those watching at home yet attempting to generate any kind of atmosphere within the stadium is borderline impossible.
In my 1st blog I referenced Euro 96 and the similarities this squad had to that, but I was reminded yesterday by a friend on our journey home that in fact this team and tournament so far mirrors Italia 90. The England National team weren’t loved going into the tournament, the nation was far from behind the team or even the Manager with calls for him to be sacked before a ball had been kicked. The group stages mirrored what we have just witnessed in the current campaign.
They laboured to a draw in a Derby game v Ireland. We then played out a bore fest against Holland before a goal from Mark Wright v Egypt in a 1-0 win saw us through to the knockout stages. We’d scored 2 goals and didn’t really look like a team capable of doing anything, no-one had stood out at this stage and going into the Belgium game we didn’t have any expectation of progressing.
Move forward 2 games after a last-minute winner v Belgium followed by the extra time win against Cameroon and suddenly, the whole nation was in love with the National team again. People still talk about Italia 90 now as the best tournament they witnessed. I think a lot of the nostalgia comes from the tournament itself rather than the England performances when you look back on them.
We are yet to know if this tournament will play out the same way, whether heroes will be created in failure or success, but the similarities are there for all to see.
We’ve scored 2 goals and not looked like an exciting team to watch at all, yet however boring the performances have been there have been spells when you think if it clicks and I mean really clicks then we could have a big statement result.
I fear nobody in the knockout stages, if you want to win tournaments then you will have to have beaten a decent team eventually. For me perhaps selfishly with travel restrictions a knockout game at Wembley was what the priority should have been and is what we have achieved.
We now have a week to prepare ourselves for the game and a week I hope will see an increased attendance for the game confirmed in the hope this improves the whole feel of the tournament.
One Nil To The England seems to be the way at the minute but I will state what I have stated previously, if we win next Tuesday 1-0 in another boring game seeing us through to the ¼ finals then would any of us actually care?
Watch out for the next instalment from a Blues Fan on International duty