The case of the English National Football Team over the last couple of decades has been a curious one. Every major tournament is preceded by a fantastic qualifying campaign, where everything comes together perfectly well. The side looks strong enough to beat anyone in the world, and they sometimes do too, as friendly wins over Spain and Brazil in recent years show. The vivacious British media then puffs its chest out, and bills England as favourites. When it comes to the actual tournament though, the massive overrating of the side becomes all too evident.
It’s not like England haven’t had the talent. If anything, they’ve had far too much of it. A midfield consisting of David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes, with Wayne Rooney up front, will make any manager drool. Sven-Goran Eriksson was the lucky man who had them in his team, but unfortunately, the Swede couldn’t find the right system to get the best out of each one.
Branded the ‘Golden Generation’ of English football, the team failed to replicate the successes of Bobby Moore’s World Cup-winning side of 1966, falling a long way short every time they tried. Some may say it was bad luck, as each of their losses against Brazil, Portugal and Germany in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups respectively could have turned out differently on another occasion. But the fact remains that England didn’t make full use of the incredible talent at their disposal, and haven’t been anywhere close to winning a major trophy since reaching the semi-finals of Euro 96.
Now, a new breed of talented English lads have come to the fore, giving renewed hope to their nation. The old guard have all gone, the last of them being Lampard who announced his retirement last month. The reigns are now firmly in the hands of England’s new generation, and there are signs that things will turn out differently for this group of players.
Danny Welbeck scored twice in a 2-0 win against Switzerland last night as England’s qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 went ahead in full-steam. The 23 year-old led the line alongside Rooney in a team full of young and exciting players, including Everton’s 20 year-old right-back John Stones and Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph.
Rooney remains the only veteran superstar in the team, the lone survivor from the previous contingent. Apart from him, the hot prospects are all below the age of 26. Everton’s Ross Barkley, Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Manchester United’s Phil Jones and Luke Shaw are among the several young world-beaters that the Three Lions have in their side.
The nation that gave the world the beautiful game of football has ironically been the biggest under-achiever at the sport. They once again though have, like many times before, a team that looks determined and destined to change that. The next decade promises a lot for England, and it will be fascinating to see if their young guns live up to the billing.