Ranked fifth in the world, winning their UEFA Nations Group, gaining sweet sweet revenge on Croatia and beating Spain in their own back yard. Good to see that World Cup fever hasn’t broken.
Naysayers wrote of England’s exploits at the World Cup. People were lining up to tell us that England were fortunate to get to the semi finals and that seven games included three losses and that they were on the right side of the draw and all that. But this England side might really be one to something and the future looks promising. Of the fourteen players used against Croatia, twelve were aged 25 and under. Couple that with the last years triumphs in the U19 Euro’s, the U20 WC & the Toulon Tournament and England have something to cheer for the first time in years.
Introducing the UEFA Nations League might just be the best thing for Gareth Southgate and England. It’s good to see England really testing themselves in the UEFA Nations League and a huge opportunity for Gareth Southgate to build some much needed experience in his young team.
In the last five years England have played the likes of Denmark, Peru, Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Honduras, Norway, Ecuador and Scotland in friendlies. Not exactly the calibre to really test the national side. England needed tougher assignments. Two games v Spain and Croatia was exactly what was needed.
England haven’t lost a World Cup or European Championship qualifier for nearly 10 years. It’s the big games against the world’s top sides that England need help with, not an away trip to Malta or Lithuania. England troubles have come in the major tournaments when they face the big boys in a tight game. Croatia were sharper than Southgate’s side in Moscow and as the game dragged into extra time they gained control and deserved their place in the World Cup final. This young side is growing up together and when Euro 2020 rolls around England will be better prepared for those crunch knockout games having faced Spain and Croatia.
England’s 3-2 win in Seville was one of their best performances in years with the Three Lions terrorising Spain with the pace of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford on the break. A goal down at home to Croatia and facing relegation, England bravely fought back with Jessie Lingard and Harry Kane scoring to turn the game around and win the group in dramatic fashion. These are the types of teams England need to be facing and the lessons a friendly cant teach you.
It’s not just the Three Lions who are benefiting from all this. A 2-1 win for Gibraltar against Liechtenstein gave them only their second ever win in their history ending a run of 22 consecutive losses. Scotland have clinched a place in the Euro 2020 play-offs and may reach their first tournament on 20 years. Ronald Koeman has turned the Netherlands fortunes around, beating France and Germany to the Nations League Finals. With qualifying spots available for Euro 2020, the UEFA Nations League has added a much needed bit of spice to it. Boring friendlies are a thing of the past. The crazy idea paid off.