I’ve woken up this morning feeling heartbroken, distraught and drained, but as I sipped my early morning tea, the nostalgia kicked in and I began to reminisce over the sensational moments that England have provided us over the past month.
It was a bitter pill to swallow and my dreams quickly turned to nightmares as Mario Mandzukic swung his boot at the ball to ripple the net and send England into the bittersweet third-place tie on Saturday.
We’ve witnessed England collapse at major tournaments over the past decade, but the 21st edition of the World Cup in Russia felt just that little bit different. We thought it was our year and although we may not be facing France in the final on Sunday, England as a nation must hold their heads very high with pride after what Gareth Southgate, his staff and the players have achieved over the entire tournament.
Let’s rewind to November 2007, England faced Croatia on an extremely rainy night at Wembley Stadium. Scott Carson infamously fumbled the ball from Nico Krancjar’s strike to gift Croatia the lead, and although England forged a sensational comeback from two goals behind, former Fulham striker Mladen Petric scored a late winner to eliminate England from Euro 2008 at the qualifying stages.
The scenes that followed epitomized the mood surrounding the national team with the unpopular Steve McClaren stood haplessly holding an umbrella aloft. It was a demoralizing defeat and it fortunately cost McClaren his job, but the heartache would continue long into the future.
Moving into 2010, England believed they had a more prosperous future under the tutelage of former AC Milan, Real Madrid and AS Roma manager Fabio Capello. The Italian’s disciplined philosophy was expected to reawaken the golden generation, but it didn’t have the desired effect.
Instead, we were left screaming at our television screens or from the stands when Frank Lampard’s revolutionary strike bounced off the crossbar and very clearly over the goal line. In that moment, England lost their heads and Germany comfortably rounded off a 4-1 victory to eliminate England at the first knockout stage.
Euro 2012 did very little to ease the nerves with Ashley Young blasting his penalty kick onto the crossbar in the quarter-final defeat to Italy, and the 2014 World Cup was a disaster from start to finish with England exiting at the group stage for the first time since 1950.
Roy Hodgson entered Euro 2016 with a final chance to prove his critics wrong and quite frankly crumbled under pressure. England narrowly emerged from their group by virtue of two draws and a dramatic late win against Wales. They headed into the tie against Iceland buoyed with confidence, but their arrogance cost them as the disciplined and organized Icelandic’s fought back to break English hearts once again.
So if you’re feeling bitter towards the English team this morning, please consider what has gone before and turn that frown upside down. It’s been a summer of drama, excitement and enjoyment; it’s just unfortunate that we were unable to achieve our dream.
Just enjoy the beautiful memories. Harry Kane’s late header to beat Tunisia, England’s 6-1 demolition of Panama, Eric Dier’s winning penalty against Colombia to earn England their first penalty shoot-out victory since Euro 1996 and the confidence boosting victory against Sweden to send The Three Lions to their first World Cup semi-finals since 1990.
It’s been a magical summer and I’ve enjoyed watching the drama unfold in the blistering summer sun. These are memories that will last a lifetime and the reason why football is such an institutional part of many people’s lives. Thank you Gareth Southgate, thank you to the players and thank you to the loyal supporters; it’s well and truly been the best major international tournament of my lifetime!