Monday, June 18, 2018

Zero Expectations

Two years ago, in Euro 2016 to be specific, I assumed that England would push Iceland aside with some ease. The team seemed to have gelled and were playing with what seemed like confidence. How utterly, devastatingly, embarrassingly wrong I was, to the extent that I managed to close out any interest in my national team for the next two years, other than to register a mild disgust at the misdeeds of Big Sam leading to his sacking.

So I've been playing catch-up in every department as to England's recent fortunes over the last two weeks, and, I must say, the news hasn't been all bad. Against the odds Gareth Southgate has made the current squad look viable and restored some sense of intelligent order to the camp. I liked him as a player, but I didn't think he'd be this much of his own man as a coach at this level. He looks like he knows what he's doing and intends to do just that and get on with it, not letting the babble surrounding him distract too much.

Will this work? It stands a chance. This time round it's hard to detect any genuine expectations of success, and that's what a youngish team need, I suspect, to thrive. But there's a brittleness at the heart of English football that no coach can magic away. I suspect that if heads go down, they'll go down deeply, and it might not take that much bad fortune to lower them.

I'm still not over Iceland. (By the way, they're my other favoured team in the competition. I reckon they could well shake things up given the kind of self-belief and organisation they showed in their first game. Almost exonerates the England of two years back, eh?)

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