What a difference a month can make. Going into the Euro 2016 tournament last month, most England fans were quietly confident about their chances. After a perfect qualifying campaign that saw them easily finish top the group with ten wins from ten games, along with a string of friendly victories, many thought this new, young generation of players would finally match expectations in a major tournament. How naïve we all were.
After three up and down group games, the team bowed out of the tournament in humiliating fashion against a team they were expected to easily overmatch, Iceland. England showed promise in their three group games, cruelly being denied in the final minutes of a significant opening game victory against Russia, unfortunately a game that was marred by fan violence both before and after the game.
The country rejoiced with Daniel Sturridge after his vital winner in the final seconds of a closely fought fixture with local rivals Wales, which put them in the driving seat for topping the group. Even with their final group game against a good Slovakia side, many felt they were unlucky to draw 0-0 against a very defensive minded side. So why did things go so badly wrong when they faced the lowest ranked side in the tournament in the first knockout round?
Roy Hodgson looking dejected as the realisation we are about to go out to Iceland dawns on him. Was it at this point he was considering his future? Photo credit Associated Press.
This is a question that will have everyone in the country talking for a long time, as they struggle to find out just what is the seeming England curse with major tournament football. Early casualties were the coaching staff, with manager Roy Hodgson and his coaching staff Gary Neville and Ray Lewington all resigning minutes after the final whistle in Nice. Many have now seriously questioned the tactics of Hodgson, with many feeling he simply did not know his best team or formation all tournament. This confusion over tactics has been attributed as part of our epic downfall, with confusion reigning amongst the fans and players, which contributed to the woeful performance put in on Monday night.
The most galling thing was that this time things were expected to be different. After the previous generation bowed out in the group stage of the World Cup two years ago, better things were expected with a new, young generation of players who have thrived in the Premier League for the past few seasons. With a vibrant and exciting young squad we hoped the curse of underperformance in the England shirt would have been rectified. We clearly still have some work to do to fix this.
Whilst the manager has taken a lot of the early criticism, the players deserve their equal share also. The performance against Iceland was beyond awful, with highly paid and experienced Champions League players struggling to make the simplest of passes. The worrying statistic is that in the game Marcus Rashford completed the most successful dribbles for England, and he was only on the pitch for five minutes.
We showed ourselves up with amateur defending from a set piece, something we knew Iceland used as their main tactic of scoring thanks to their long throws. With the second goal the England defenders seemed to be standing around waiting for someone else to make a tackle, before forlornly watching the ball roll past the soft hand of keeper Joe Hart. From this point onwards England never looked like scoring, with the only brief ray of hope being provided by subs Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford. The players sunk to their knees at the final whistle, although they deservedly heard chants of “your not fit to wear the shirt”, from the tired England fans.
The England players dejected after their shocking 2-1 defeat to Iceland on Monday night. Photo sourced from Sky Sports.
England have embarrassed themselves both on and off the pitch this tournament, and it’s safe to say that no one will be unhappy to see us now travel home with our tail between our legs. The inquest is already beginning over the debacle this tournament, and a lot will need to change if England are to do well in a major tournament. We need to find a manager who can successfully motivate the squad whilst also find the perfect formation and starting eleven for us to do well. Many have insisted it has to be an English manager, but after several tries with this method can we not simply accept that it should be the best man for the job, irrespective of whether he’s English or not?
We will need to keep faith with this young squad, as we do have some really promising players who many not recover if we heavily criticise them now. If we can get them playing in the manner they do with their clubs, we will go far. Maybe this latest disappointment will be wake up call we need to show that we have been expecting too much from the England team for numerous tournaments. It’s clear we are nowhere near as good as we expected, and maybe in future we need to temper our expectations to avoid any potential disappointment.
Where do England go from here? What are your thoughts on what went wrong in the Euro’s? Comment below and thank you for reading.