So the day has arrived, England after a 28 year wait, will play in the World Cup semi finals. Croatia are the team that stand in their and will hope to extend the 52 years of hurt. We know who will be waiting in the Final, can this England side, who the nation has completely fell in love with bring it home?
The love affair with this set of players and manager grows every day, more and more people are throwing their support behind the team and the bid to bring it home. Today, on social media we saw a string of companies announce to their customers that they were closing early to allow their employees time to get home to see the game, some were shortening shifts and changing late starts that would give them the opportunity to see the three lions try to make history. That is bloody marvellous. It has been far too long since we saw the nation fully behind the team.
England probably wont ever have a chance like this again. No disrespect to Croatia but this is not the team you would expect to play in a World Cup Semi Final. Can England do it? Can they make a World Cup Final? Yes. Yes they can. This team has shown something that no England team that have watched has shown before. One telling thing that I noticed when watching back the highlights from the Colombia game was the players and staff reaction when the Colombia scored their late equalizer. There was no dropping to the knees, there was no panic, there was no time for holding head in hands, Harry Kane looked at the players around him, signalled to keep calm, Southgate was doing the same. There was no sign of ‘Here we go again’. The haunting images of players faces as the game against Iceland in Euro 2016 clearly slipped away from them is one not easily forgotten. My faith is not easily shook when it comes to England. I cried when England lost to Germany in Euro 96 but i still believed. I left a wake of destruction thanks to teenage rage when we lost on penalties to Argentina at France 98 but i still believed, I watched on in disbelief as we went out in the group stages of Euro 2000 but i still believed, I wept as 10 men Brazil ended our hopes at Japan/south Korea 2002 but i still believed, hatred brewed as ‘The Winker’ and his Portugal side inflicted another penalty defeat at Euro 2004 but i still believed, at Germany 2006 Portugal and Penalties yet again broke my heart but i still believed, disappointment came earlier in 2008 when we failed to qualify but i still believed, rivalry was renewed as the old enemy brought on the water works again in 2010 as we fell to Germany 4-1 but i still believed, penalties again were the culprits of tournament disappoint at Euro 2012 this time at the hands of Italy but i still believed, we landed in the ‘Group of Death’ in Brazil 2014 and were embarrassed as we finished the bottom of the group and went out with a whimper but i still believed, then came Euro 2016 and Iceland and i no longer believed. My faith was shook and all was not well in English football. A fear started to grow in me that maybe i was wrong, maybe having all this faith was misplaced, the years of painting the garage, hanging the bunting, waving the flags was all just a waste of time. We weren’t good enough, we were never going to be good enough. Too much money in the game, too many foreign players in our top sides, the young lads aren’t getting the chances, the Premier league has ruined the International game. These were all the excuses but they were genuine reasons too. Maybe just maybe Football wasn’t going to come home after all????
Gareth Southgate and his 23 lions have changed all that though. They may not have faced anyone ‘Decent’ they may have got ‘Lucky’ with an easier group, it may be the ‘easiest’ path to a World cup ever but you have still got to get there, you have still got to beat these easy sides, you have got to win your first ever penalty shootout and they have done these things. The expectation may have risen, they hype is definitely real and as I sit here writing this blog several cars have drove past my house with ‘Three Lions’ and ‘Vindaloo’ blaring out of there windows, the boys believe, Southgate believes, the public believes, the nation believes…..
I still believe……..
IT’S COMING HOME, IT’S COMING HOME, IT’S COMING, FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME!!!!