England fans have had to get used to disappointment for the past 50 years. Ever since England’s World Cup triumph of 1966, they have failed to complement that victory with more titles. With the amount of quality players and opportunities that England have had over the years, it is rather shocking that the trophy cabinet has managed to gather more dust since 1966, and as the majority of avid football fans know, football is largely a “What have you done for me lately?” sport. Be that as it may, in recent years (and I mean very recent) the national team has shown a big sign of improvement. Two years after the utter embarrassment of going out of the 2016 European Championships to Iceland (a country which Gary Lineker infamously tweeted “has more mountains than football pitches”), England played in a World Cup where for the first time in a while the expectations of them were lower than usual. They went on to reach the semi-final, losing to a well-organised Croatia. They finished 3rd in the inaugural UEFA Nations League, and just this past summer in July they fell at the last hurdle, taking favourites Italy to penalties and losing at Wembley in the 2021 European Championship final. For an England fan that would have been depressing to read, but in a “What have you done for me lately?” sport, you cannot deny that England have (in some ways) lived up to the hype. With the World Cup just a little over a year away, England fans can afford to wonder whether the players can disregard the odds and actually go all the way. The original question was whether England can realistically claim silverware during this decade. The answer: England definitely has what it takes, and here are some of those advantages:
Youth – In any team in the world, youth will always be important. There’s a reason why academies like Benfica, La Masia (Barcelona), Anderlecht, Cobham (Chelsea) and more are praised for producing exciting youngsters who eventually progress onto becoming established international players and serial winners. Since 2018, Gareth Southgate has revelled in giving youngsters opportunities to show what they have in the national team. This has allowed players like 20-year-old Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), 22-year-old Mason Mount (Chelsea), 20-year-old Phil Foden (Manchester City), and others to stake claims for starting positions in the team. To put England’s impressive abundance of youth into perspective, Statista revealed that England had the 2nd youngest team in the 2021 European Championships, with an average age of 25.
Squad depth – When it comes to the circulation of quality players in a single team, England are absolutely in the conversation with the likes of Germany, France, Brazil, etc. In fact, Transfermarkt has England placed at number 1 in the most valuable international squads list, with an estimated total team value of 1.03 billion pounds – the only international squad in the world right now whose total team value is beyond the 1 billion mark. So, when players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire are injured, they can look to the likes of Tammy Abraham, Jadon Sancho, Conor Coady, and more. Any manager in the world would love to have England’s squad depth at their disposal.
Establishing a style of play – When watching England play, you can find a lot of similarities between them and Manchester United in that they do their best work on the counter. The difference is that England don’t concede as many goals as United do. Even though England didn’t win the 2021 European Championships, they managed to concede the least number of goals in the whole tournament, only letting in 2. This is very encouraging for mangers that want to win titles. However, if England want to dominate games, creativity in midfield must improve so that they can create more chances to score. As the young players grow though, I’m personally inclined to believe that their overall playing style will improve as they mature.
I could go on, but all in all I believe that England fans can afford to get excited about what’s in store for the next 10 years. The England national team, in truth, is a bona fide arsenal, but Gareth Southgate has to learn how to use that arsenal to its fullest extent to avoid swinging and missing when it matters most.