England are through to the World Cup finals after an extensive qualification campaign, however, England fans do not expect to witness any success in Russia.
We’ve seen this all before. The sickening feeling when you question your whole make-up as a football fan. The familiar process of the three lions effortlessly conquering the group, the remarkable pre-tournament build up and alas the inevitable devastating disappointment.
The long sought-after dream of imagining the nation’s captain collect that famed winner’s trophy slams to another abrupt halt, usually at the hands of those ruthless Germans or, dare I say it, the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Gareth Southgate still wakes up in cold sweats to this day.
The World Cup victory in 1966 now seems so distant it could be an old wives’ tale, as the triumphant echoes of the victory, over fifty years on are beginning to fall silent.
The fairy-tale story with a sour ending was epitomised in 2016 against Iceland when Sigthorsson’s shot crept past the flailing Joe Hart, to the dismay of 24, over-earning, Beats headphone wearing, tremendously over-hyped English players.
Another ejection from a major tournament, another tactical failure of epic proportions, another devastating disaster.
What’s the problem?
Poor preparation arising from a lack of tournament intelligence and misjudgments regarding how opposing teams will play means England are too often out-thought, out-fought and ultimately beaten.
English professionals who thrive domestically frustratingly fail to replicate their impressive club form on the international stage, it’s infuriating for the English faithful, who fail to see players maintain the impressive football they have been playing all year round.
Fans have become accustomed to the national team lacking a distinguishable playing style, unlike the defensively minded Italians or the possession-based Spaniards, England’s lack any form of organisation or structural shape.
It’s not surprising really. It’s the result of several questionable managers (*cough. Steve Mclaren. cough*) and with that, several unforgivable managerial philosophies, combined with a large player turnover over the years, which have seen the likes of Dave Nugent and Jay Bothroyd called up to the national frame. Horrendous.
Formulated from thousands of pounds being thrown at them from the day they strutted into the first team, there are colossal questions over the lack of mental strength English players, and whether they really seek the success that the nation craves.
Have they achieved material success to early in their lives? Are they hungry enough? Is the England set-up even seen as a priority to players anymore?
Is there any room for optimism?
Yes. It’s all about how Southgate approaches the World Cup and his acceptance to utilise the young but remarkably talented crop of players that are available.
Marcus Rashford is one of few players with a raw, genuine quality that’s coupled with his ability to play without fear and a willingness to attack the opposition backline.
The only way England can succeed is if these traits can be transferred to the likes of attacking compatriots like Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli, both have a point to prove after disappointing Euro campaign’s in 2016.
Optimism lies most heavily on Harry Kane. He is the talisman, the focal point of the team if England score, it’s likely to be his name on the scoresheet.
The team must be tailored to him and set up to utilise his goal-scoring abilities if England are to progress anywhere in the World Cup.
The fans don’t expect the World Cup to be paraded around Trafalgar square, but England, please don’t embarrass the nation once again this summer.