Given that England have not won a major trophy since the 1966 World Cup, it may surprise some to see them leading the way in the UEFA Euro 2020 odds. But that is an indication of how much England’s stock has risen under Gareth Southgate since their run to the semi-finals of the World Cup three years ago.
Southgate’s mission this summer is to end that 55-year wait for another major tournament triumph, and it will be interesting to see whether this England team is ready to realise its potential and go the distance at a showpiece event. The experience in Russia three years ago should have hardened the squad, and perhaps now is the time for the Three Lions to finally roar.
It’s coming home
Of course, this year’s European Championships will see the semi-finals and final held at Wembley Stadium in London, and that will provide extra motivation for England to get that far and enjoy the home comforts of their most familiar surroundings. Indeed, Southgate’s side will also play all three of their group games at Wembley, so that should be a major advantage.
It’s expected that fans will be present at matches, albeit at a limited capacity, and that will undoubtedly give England a boost as they take to the field against Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic.
Last time the Euros were held in England was in 1996, with England narrowly losing out to Germany in the semi-finals. Southgate will have his sights set on outdoing the team of 25 years ago and going all the way.
Much of the newfound confidence in the England team is down to the plethora of talented young players Southgate has at his disposal. With the likes of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount boasting fine form heading into the summer, England could well be a juggernaut if Southgate can find the right way to harness their various talents.
The danger is that too much expectations will be placed on young shoulders, which is something England have suffered from on numerous occasions in the past. While most of the team’s talented youngsters are playing with freedom for their clubs, the pressure of carrying your nation’s hopes and dreams can lead to underwhelming performances, and Southgate must find a way to guard against that.
On the right track
While England might not necessarily be playing the open, attractive football many would like them to, it’s clear that Southgate is doing a good job of setting England up to win matches consistently.
Teams that win major international tournaments rarely do so by blowing away every opponent, rather it takes a more measured, pragmatic approach. Southgate appears to be learning what it takes to win matches, and that’s all that matters in the end.
Even if England don’t go all the way this summer, it’s clear that the foundation is in place to end that wait for major international success sooner rather than later. Given the reaction in England to the team’s run to the World Cup semi-finals two years ago, it’s hard to imagine the celebrations that would take place if Southgate’s team were to end almost 60 years of hurt.