England beat Denmark 2-1 AET to reach their first major final since winning the World Cup back in 1966. Many great players & managers have tried and failed to return England to the top of international football. But this current crop feels different. It’s not a team full of superstars that are constantly winning at club level. It’s a team led by a manager who has been through everything with England as a player and is determined to put himself & this team down in history for all the right reasons!
Since England last reached a major final, three Englishman have won the Ballon d’Or. A golden generation of talent, including Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard & Ferdinand, have come and gone without getting further than the quarter-finals in a major tournament. The FA has hired two foreign managers (Sven Goran Eriksen & Fabio Capelo) but continuously came up short on the big stage.
Now they have a manager who has experienced all the tough times as a player with England, having missed the penalty that cost England a place in the final of Euro 96. A squad of players all committed to the same goal. And the advantage of playing in front of their home crowd after over a year of playing behind closed doors.
No dominant leader:
This is not to say there are no leaders on the pitch for England but instead speaks to a level playing field, which has not been since 1966. Outside of the three Manchester City players in the starting lineup, none of the rest of the team have won consistently at club level. So there isn’t your Terry, Rooney & Gerrerard battling to be the alpha on the pitch. Just a tight-knit group that believes in each other and believes what their manager is preaching to them.
The players put egos aside, and the team plays like one. Nobody is better than anybody else. It’s 11 players doing their jobs to the best of their abilities to bring team success. No individual has brought England to this stage, it has been the collective effort of the squad, and that is something we have not seen since 1966.
Manager that has been through it all
Gareth Southgate may have got the England job by pure chance, but he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands after Sam Allardyce resigned following�allegations of malpractice.�The FA made the former u21 boss caretaker manager of the senior team in 2016.
Southgate was named permanent manager after two wins & two draws as interim boss. Penning a four-year deal. The team qualified for the 2018 World Cup in October 2017, and Southgate has not looked back since. After qualifying second from their group in Russia, England overcame Colombia in the round of 16 on penalties. Marking the nation first ever penalty shoot-out victory at a World Cup. They then eased past Sweden in the quarter-finals. Ultimately finishing fourth, after being beaten 2-1 by Croatia in the semi-finals.
He went one better in the inaugural Nations League. Guiding England to a third-place finish, and he has stepped on again at Euro 2020 by reaching the final. Southgate has been through some of the most difficult times as a player with England. But he is using his role as manager to redeem himself and make sure this group of players goes down in history!
Many called Southgate’s tactics into question after the World Cup semi-final defeat. So far, at Euro 2020, all tactical decisions have been vindicated. He has said all the right things to the media, and England looks like the best team in the tournament. After going against the norm with the hiring of Sven Goran Eriksen & Fabio Capelo. England has been trying to strike the right chord, and with Gareth Southgate, they have done just that.
England had a home advantage when they won the World Cup back in 1966. And after playing football behind closed doors for over a year, the home support is helping to bring the best out of England.
England has played five of their six games so far at Wembley Stadium. The final will be in Wembley Stadium, and while it brought nerves in 96. Thanks to Covid-19, fan presence has brought nothing but joy to those taking to the pitch at Euro 2020.
Yes, this is one of the most talented squads England has had since 1966; we have thought that many times over the past 50 years. However, there appears to be humbleness within this squad that puts them above the golden generations of the ’90s & 2000s. Gareth Southgate has proven himself to be a top manager in pressure situations. England is turning over a new leaf on Sunday whether they end up victorious or not!