As the Euros come to their final week, I must say that it has been a great tournament. From the unexpected elimination of the Dutch to the emotional qualification for Greece, this tournament has been just as filled with ups and downs as any.
Yet what matters most? As an Englishman, we could ask could it be the emergence of young, fearless attacking talent in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck? Perhaps the leadership of Steven Gerrard? Or simply England’s ability to qualify from the group?
However, for me what matters most is a more nationwide affair – the country’s attitude towards the tournament. Let me explain further. Having heard concurring opinions from multiple people I think it is safe to say that the majority of us didn’t really give England a chance this summer. It is this that I think matters the most for England in these championships and has had a profound impact on their performances in Poland and the Ukraine.
With regards to attendance at the tournament that can be blamed on two things: the recession and the venue. England fans were warned on multiple occasions about the potential trouble in Poland and the Ukraine, whilst economic struggles meant many ruled out the trip from the offset. This has led to the noticeable lack of England supporters at the tournament, and should I add understandably so.
Yet if we’re honest these are no the only factors. Heading into the competition with a new manager and system, not many people rated England’s chances of progressing out of Group D, never mind their quarterfinal prospects. Such an unusual lack of optimism was evident: a fraction of the usual England flags have been displayed in streets and on cars around the country.
Even the lack of a proper England song (sorry Chris Kamara) shows that initially we didn’t believe.
It is this realism that has mattered so dearly to England’s campaign in these European Championships. The lack of optimism in the country has seen this group of players unify in an effort to prove us wrong. We have seen England teams before, full of egos and attitudes, be adored by us fans and thus fail to really be motivated for success. Our lack of optimism has helped cultivate an ‘us against the world mentality’ that this England team desperately needed, an attitude that has played an important role in their progression in this tournament.
The attitude heading into England’s loss to Italy this Sunday was somewhat different, the optimism returned and England failed again at the quarterfinal level.
With Roy Hodgson at the helm, a better than expected Euros and a wealth of young talent giving good performances on the international stage, expectations for the 2014 World Cup campaign should be high for England fans.
Yet perhaps if we’re not too optimistic, they might just win that one.
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