English football has been riding a wave of momentum since the 2018 World Cup in Russia. On that occasion, the Three Lions surprised the watching world by reaching the semi-finals in Moscow and since then, the team has continued to stamp its mark on international football.
Indeed, England followed that up by earning their spot in the 2021 UEFA Euro final at Wembley only to suffer an agonizing defeat to Italy on penalties.
In many respects, it is a case of what could have been for Gareth Southgate’s men after passing up two opportunities to lift some of football’s most coveted prizes. This may seem like a harsh view of England’s success over the last four years but the uncomfortable truth is that dynasties and good times don’t last forever in the world of football.
Essentially, teams have to take their chances or face a reality where they look back on the past with regrets. Of course, the latest World Cup Odds suggest that England could still capitalize on what they’ve built over the last few years given that the Three Lions are at just 13/2 to go all the way in Qatar.
It all started so well for @England…
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 11, 2021
Tellingly, only Brazil and France have better odds which again, indicates that Southgate’s men are in good shape coming into the showpiece in the Middle East. That, at least, is the statistical view but if we were to focus on England’s 2022 UEFA Nations League campaign, a different verdict would be reached.
All things told it was a miserable summer for England despite the country going through a set of heatwaves last experienced in 1976. Indeed, being beaten by Hungary at home and away whilst only managing draws with Italy and Germany was far from the ideal preparation with the World Cup only a few months from starting.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 11, 2018
It should be pointed out that it was, in the player’s defence, a long season and it does feel as if this Nations League is losing relevance with every game that is played. Put another way, there is no reason for the league to be extended into the summer in order to play what has been described as glorified friendlies. This is, after all, a crucial time for the players to recover after nine months of nonstop football.
This may go a long way in explaining England’s lethargic performances in the summer but there is also an inescapable reality that this team is running out of time to make the most of their ability. Indeed, when you consider that this is the first time that the world has seen this England team flag since 2017, your natural conclusion is that the Three Lions may have peaked under Southgate.
The BBC montage of the Colombia shootout soundtracked by @TheNational they showed before the game yesterday is easily one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Goosebumps. 🏴🏴🏴 pic.twitter.com/P7LcAuywSq
— Joe Bone (@josefbone) July 8, 2018
Time will tell but the World Cup in Qatar is without a shadow of any doubt, the last chance for this group of players under Southgate to write their names into the history books. Whichever way things go for England, you imagine change will inevitably be in the offing when their team planes leaves the humidity of Hamad International Airport to return to the depths of winter at Heathrow, it really is now or never.