Let’s just enjoy the World Cup run England did have.
How World Cup glory (well, for us) hasn’t even begun to settle and yet England fans are already questioning what the football team has really achieved. After such a great summer, it seems that nothing really has changed. England remains as cynical as ever.
Since the semi-final debate, pundits and fans have been quick to point out that England have never faced a ‘great’ side in their current form. They also are quick to remind us of the defeat England faced in the group stages against Belgium.
None of these assertions are at all unsteadied by fact it seems. In the group stages, England had a weakened team with most of the usual starting line-up being rested. It was an understandable and shrewd choice given the ferocity of a World Cup campaign. It was also a result that wasn’t actually in any way relevant. In the play offs for third place, England faced injuries, an exhausted team and playing a match nobody ever wanted to compete in. England though have shown quality.
“England though have shown quality”
In the group stages, Sweden looked strong and Colombia have such high quality attacking threats in their team. Croatia too are a team of quality. Often understated and underrated, Croatia has players which compete in the Champions League as regularly as their national leagues. At the end of the day, the FIFA rankings don’t much matter. Spain are a top class team and were frustrated and dumped out of the tournament by Russia. Germany have wonderful players and suffered a disastrous defeat to South Korea. Tournaments are about the luck of the moment, and some teams absolutely rise to the occasion. It is difficult, then, to say that England have not faced a great team, but what we can say is that they always played with composure and class.
Football culture though in England is too used to picking apart the mistakes, and too happy to be critical. Southgate has given us a team finally to be proud of and he works with dedicated tenacity yet in a way that empowers his players. We’ve got a team we can be proud of for the way they conduct themselves off the pitch as well as on it. Even those who usually support other sides (myself included) will admire the way that England conducted themselves at the tournament. That should be good enough. England has had a glorious summer of football. True, there are likely to be greater challenges ahead but let’s not write the team off before they’ve even come to meet them.
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