Could Football Be Coming Home?
England will have a chance to win their first major international trophy since 1966 when they compete in the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League in the summer, but what factors are going in their favour ahead of the inaugural summer competition?
The hopes of an international resurgence were low last summer ahead of the 2018 World Cup, with players in the squad likely there to build experience rather than compete for the top honour. However, what followed dared the English public to dream, and that was in part down to the average age of the squad being only 26. That squad included the likes of Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, and Jordan Pickford.
That has decreased even further after the excellent seasons that Declan Rice and Jadon Sancho have enjoyed, and they will likely both play a prominent role in Gareth Southgate’s squad this summer. Sancho especially has grabbed all the headlines due to his starring role in an exceptionally talented Borussia Dortmund team; with the Englishman going on to become the highest assist maker in the Bundesliga this season. How Southgate integrates these players into his team will be interesting, but they already have the talent to play a crucial role.
England squads of yesteryear have always been heavy in certain areas, with players like Paul Scholes forced to play out of position for the national team due to the lack of players available in the left midfield position. However, nowadays England has an embarrassment of riches all over the field; with each player offering something different.
That is evident in the right-back position where England now have Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Last summer Walker operated as a central defender for Trippier to play on the right-hand side. However, it looks as though Alexander-Arnold will be taking that position. The crossing and passing ability that the youngster has is of a similar level to Trippier, but the defensive awareness that the Liverpool man has will likely ensure he takes the spot.
There is also an array of options within the midfield, with Dele Ali, Jesse Lingard, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek likely contesting over one attacking midfield role. Meanwhile, Rice will be competing with Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier for the holding position. The amount of options also means that Southgate has more flexible options in terms of the system that he plays.
The one thing that each England player has is the positive mental attitude that is needed when competing for their country. This new crop is fearless, and the World Cup last year just highlights that. Teams from the past have mental-horrors from penalty shootout heartbreaks; something that meant that country had never won a shootout until the 2018 event.
However, this change of attitude has enabled the fans and media to become more engrossed with the team. This undeniably affected the team last summer, and the involvement that Southgate had on this should be understated. He ensured that the media were on board with the team and his plan, and that meant that players were free to focus on the football rather than things that were going on off the field.
The final block that remains in any England international’s mind is the fact that the country hasn’t won a major trophy since 1966. However, tipsters at gamblerslounge.com have suggested that could change this summer. If it does, then this young crop of England players could be on their way to even bigger things.