LONDON – Hurt for years, England fans sing about it. All this sense of entitlement, rival fans get pissed off.
After decades of embarrassment and moaning at tournaments, the British finally have their chance to support the bravery – just listen to the team anthem, “Footballs Coming Home” – with a trophy.
The nation that claims to be the inventors of football but more aptly one of the sport’s great underachievers is back in the final against Italy at the European Championships.
The teams will meet at London’s Wembley Stadium on Sunday night where England will take on their first major title since winning the 1966 World Cup at home. The Italians are unbeaten in 33 matches.
England have had 55 painful years through 26 World Cup and European Championship tournaments, seven of which they didn’t even qualify for.
Since then lesser-known national teams such as Denmark and Greece have also won trophies. But England set out to lag behind on a world stage it felt should dominate.
Beating Denmark on Wednesday at least broke the semi-final barrier at Euros, winning 2-1 in extra time and avoiding the penalty shootout that has proved to be the team’s nemesis through all those near-misses.
“What a wonderful moment for us,” said England coach Gareth Southgate on the field as fans still sing into the night at Wembley. Let’s save it. “
England players were not missing out on this opportunity to cash in on the applause of the crowd waiting for this healing moment, not only to reach the final again, but to regroup in such large numbers because of the pandemic-restricting capacity. increased to 66,000.
“Too late,” quipped Southgate, discussing any attempt to dampen the enthusiasm. “We all let ourselves down on the pitch.”
The celebration was a reflection of the bond the coach had forged between the national team and an English public that had grown disillusioned with pride and dreary performances before Southgate’s overhaul began in 2016.
Taking England to the final is proving to be encouraging for the coach who missed a decisive penalty as a player in the Euro ’96 semi-final penalty shootout against Germany. This was the tournament in which England’s “Three Lions” song was introduced, referring to “30 Years of Hurt”.
It has never been easy for England. Even as the road to the Euro 2020 semi-finals looked easy – even a 2-0 win over arch-rival Germany – Southgate was up for difficulties against Denmark, especially the 2018 World Cup. After losing to Croatia in the semi-finals and last four of the 2019 Nations League. by Netherlands.
“I knew it could be a tough road,” Southgate said. “Finally it’s a wonderful evening for our fans, for our people and for our country.”
Southgate sees his role as giving more to a nation, assuming a position of leadership beyond sport when he spoke about unity during the divisive Brexit debate and now calls on players to support social causes and the campaign against racism. Encourages you to use their platforms for promotion.
However, the Southgate is more than just a speaker. Only 1966 Word Cup winner Alf Ramsey has been England’s more successful coach. Expensive imports at the beginning of the century – Sven-Göran Ericsson and Fabio Capello – could not progress beyond the quarter-finals. Instead, a manager whose only club job ended in 2009 with Middlesbrough relegation from the Premier League, led England to the final.
For all his popular support—”Southgate You’re the One,” the fans sing—he resists fans’ demands to select players. Manchester United striker national hero Marcus Rashford, who has won praise for challenging the government, did not even come off the bench for the biggest match of his career.
He ignored calls to drop Raheem Sterling at the start of Euro 2020 and was rewarded with three goals from the winger, who also forced his own-goal to seal the game against Denmark in a 1-all tie.
Southgate remained calm as England held him, substituting only when there were five available for him 90 minutes before extra time.
“The opposition was constantly changing tactics,” Southgate said. “Sometimes it takes courage to do nothing… the risk is that you do nothing, it goes against you. But we were causing problems.”
Problems that England haven’t had for decades.
“It’s one of the proudest moments in my life,” said captain Harry Kane, who netted the winner from a rebound after his penalty was saved. “But we haven’t won it yet, we have one more to go.”
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