Thursday night saw England finish second in Group G after losing 1-0 to group winners Belgium. I take a look at what this means for their progression and reflect on their performances so far at the World Cup…
Plenty of positives
Overall, England should feel content with their displays in Russia thus far. They enjoyed fast, free-flowing attacking football against both Tunisia and Panama, totaling eight goals across both games. Of course it’s the English way to get head over heals and start fantasizing over bringing the cup home, but, it’s hard to look past noticeable improvements in the side from previous tournaments.
One of the main factors which has been hotly discussed is the togetherness of the players both on and off the field. Southgate has really let them connect as a unit. He seems to have injected a slightly more laid back approach to his man management style of coaching than we have seen from ex-managers. This has clearly sparked a positive reaction. Southgate has also encouraged the development of youth players such as Loftus-Cheek and Alexander-Arnold which seems to be mixing well with the more mature members of the squad. The balance of the team seems to be key.
25y 251d – The average age of England’s starting XI tonight is their second youngest ever in a major tournament match, after vs Sweden in the 2002 World Cup (25y 207d). Cubs. #ENG #BEL #ENGBEL #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/FMfJhwQd62
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 28, 2018
This defeat has split many opinions across the nation. On one hand it is always nice to finish top of your group and keep the winning habits alive. However, arguably on the more logical side of things, it looks more profitable for England to have finished as runners-up due to the opposition they will draw should they make it to the quarter-final stages.
If they beat Colombia in the round of 16 then they will face either Switzerland or Sweden – a permeation which appears highly in favor of The Lions. Whereas for Belgium who have topped the group, although they face a ‘easier’ game in Japan in the last 16, they would potentiality go on to face Brazil in the quarter finals. A fixture which no team would fancy! So that’s surely a big morale boost for England.
Is this the year?
Maybe this finally could be the end of England’s pain and misery in World Cup tournaments since their famous 1966 triumph. The mixture of exciting football being played, the happy feeling around the camp, the managers relationship with the players, Harry Kane scoring a bagful of goals and their kind-looking route to the semi-final is certainly giving fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic.