Written by Adam McGroarty (@AdamMcGroarty1)
England’s third game after a World Cup campaign which brought a whole nation together was against Croatia – the team that knocked England out of this summer’s tournament.
After the World Cup fever died down amongst fans it became apparent that there were two different perceptions on how well England actually did.
One argument is that the team did exceptionally well. England had not reached a World Cup semifinal since the heartbreak of Italia 90, a sore thought etched into the minds of most fans. Since then, particularly in recent years, the team has failed to perform and have been knocked out in the early stages – Brazil 2014 World Cup (out in the group stage) and the Euro 2016 shock defeat to Iceland (round of 16) to name two examples. So for most fans, getting to a semifinal was a major step in the right direction for Southgate’s men.
However, this is where the counterargument comes in. Some fans argue that England beat all of the teams that they should have throughout the entirety of the tournament, and therefore would have been expected to get as far as they did. If you look at some of the teams England played (Panama, Sweden, Colombia, and Tunisia) you would expect the Three Lions to come out on top in all of these games. Furthermore, the games you wouldn’t expect England to win (Belgium, twice) they lost, twice. This argument dampens the immense feeling of euphoria that was prevalent after the World Cup campaign.
However, I still say that the World Cup was a success.
My reason behind this would be rather simple – just look at some of the teams, as I mentioned earlier, that England have been knocked out by in recent years (Iceland in Euro 2016, Uruguay and Costa Rica during the 2014 World Cup). From this, it is clearly evident that the whole setup of the national team has some issues when heading to a major tournament. These issues prevent the squad from performing and getting the results that they should.
This England team went to the Russia World Cup and beat teams that we should be beating. Yet, I would consider that a positive, bearing in mind that previous England teams have failed to do that including the ‘golden generation’ featuring the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
No matter if fans believe the World Cup was a success or not, one thing is for sure: that current results prove that lessons have not been learnt from this summer’s trip to Russia. England have played three games since the World Cup, the first being the Nations League group match against Spain at Wembley, which England lost 2-1.
The team then won a friendly match at the King Power stadium 1-0 against Switzerland, Marcus Rashford with the goal in a slow and unentertaining encounter at Leicester City.
Then came Friday’s clash against Croatia behind closed doors. England still looked rather slow and careless in midfield and although a few chances were created, Rashford missed two most glorious.
The squad next face Spain away from home in their third Nations League game, where fresh legs need to be introduced on the pitch with the likes of Kane being ineffective due to his current fatigue.