The summer of 2021 was once again a period when all England fans fell back in love with the international team. Gareth Southgate’s side allowed a nation to dream that football could come home, and it very nearly did. Strides have been made over the past three years with the national team, and they are no longer the laughing stock that a generation of fans grew up watching and waiting to be let down.
However, Southgate’s reign will be judged on the success that he oversees, but could that long-awaited first piece of silverware since 1966 come in Qatar at the World Cup next year?
England Continuing To Grow
As we mentioned, England’s run at EURO 2020 ultimately hit an end in the final, as they just weren’t able to edge past a much savvier Italian side. Once again, it was a penalty shootout that was England’s downfall, as the Three Lions saw Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Buyako Saka miss from 12 yards. However, there were more positives than negatives to take from the competition as a whole.
England have often been ridiculed by Germany in major tournaments for choking when the pressure is really on. However, there was a slice of revenge from England in the first knockout round as they knocked out their old rivals in convincing fashion. The biggest ever win for the Three Lions in a knockout round at an international tournament soon followed, as a 4-0 success against Ukraine was every bit as dominant as it sounds. Southgate was also able to get England into a competitive final for the first time in 1966, with victory over Denmark in the semi-finals. That hurdle had been the Achilles heel for famous teams gone by, but this young Three Lions side is made of something stronger.
Along with the off-field heroes of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, who are fighting cultural and political battles, the team is every inch as technical, powerful, and strong mentally as any other national team. That is even more impressive when you consider that England’s average age at the EUROs was just 25.27. Only Turkey had a younger squad at the competition.
Super Powers Diminishing
While England’s talent pool is widening with the emergence of players such as Phil Foden, Mason Greenwood, and Jude Bellingham, other countries are opting to revert back to players that have guided them to success previously. Thomas Muller’s recall by Germany was just an indicator of the struggles that they have in finding the next generation. Karim Benzema returning to the French setup was also a sign of desperation by the world champions.
Just this week, you could compare how the feel-good feeling in the camp in Southgate’s team is continuing to blossom, while other nations are stuttering over the line to Qatar. England blew away Hungary, who had proven troublesome for France and Germany at the EUROs, in dominant fashion, claiming a 4-0 win despite the vile racist abuse aimed at members of the Three Lions team. Meanwhile, France and Italy were held by Bosnia and Bulgaria, respectively, while Spain were beaten in Stockholm by Sweden.
Of course, there is a long way to go before the first ball is kicked in Qatar next year, but England’s progression shows no sign of stopping. They could be the excellent value selection at present, with some sportsbooks even offering as high as 8/1 for the Three Lions to win the Soccer World Cup in 2022. It certainly looks like a case of getting the price while it lasts.