England’s season in their first UEFA Nations League finals came to an end with disappointment as they reached the midpoint between the feel-good run last summer to the Euro 2020 and world cup semi-finals.
The feats of Gareth Southgate’s side in the Russian summer last year came as a gratifying surprise to their fans, before the painful defeat in Moscow by Croatia. However, the loss against the Netherlands in Guimares came as a major setback that raised critical questions on the team’s development level.
During the third-place play-off, England’s win against Switzerland through penalties ensured a positive ending though the team didn’t achieve their main objectives. That has made many fans to wonder what sort of shape the team is taking just 12 months out from the Euros Showpiece, with the finals and semi-finals scheduled on home ground at Wembley.
England Offers Hope
If Gareth Southgate’s side walked away with this new European Trophy, many would have seen it as a major success just like Gala bingo has become for gaming enthusiasts. However, the fact that they didn’t win explains the cold judgment.
In the team’s defense, the two games might have been too far towards the end of an exhausting season. Nonetheless, it was still a failure for whatever reason. However, England’s year must be viewed in the right context as there’s no doubt that Southgate and his players have made progress,
The players had proven that they could yield landmark results, just as they did in Seville when they won their first away match against Spain in over three decades. England also proved that they could respond to pressure after mounting an excellent late comeback to defeat their semi-final conquerors in the World Cup. The team beat Croatia in November to emerge victorious at Wembley and also secured a place in the Portugal finals.
With Southgate at the helm, England has a plethora of exciting young players who will serve the team well during the Euros next summer. The team has also re-engaged with their fans following a public fall out after their failures during the 2018 World Cup competitions. Coach Southgate will also be looking to build trust with the supporters after taking over from the one-match tenure of Sam Allardyce.
Serious Questions For England
England is still surrounded by a great deal of goodwill that they built in Russia while reaching the finals. Scoring ten goals during the Euro 2020 opening qualifiers against Montenegro and the Czech Republic also heavily bolstered their reputation until their loss against the Netherlands exposed several fault lines that need to be addressed.
For all the well deserved praises they’ve received, the fact remains that England has been in two semi-finals in the last year and lost both. This time, they’ll need to prove that they are not destined to remain as the bridesmaid, a reputation that they have earned based on their performance.
Nonetheless, England still has a long way to go before they can fully justify the huge expectations accompanying them to the Euro 2020 competitions.