"Is this the best European Championships ever?" has become the big question of recent weeks, probably dominating the talk of this site, pubs and bars nationwide, and surpassing the topic du jour of the fate of a certain twinkle toed Portugese winger. Whether it is or is not is a matter for discussion, however the fact that England are not in this European Championships has certainly aided these shouts.
Without the intention to be castigated in my very first post, my feelings are partly due to the inevitable heartache and hangover that the nation would suffer upon our exit on penalties. In the quarter finals. Again. Yet without the anxiety that we would all feel, hoping for an attacking force to be stifled by a less fancied and resolute outfit in order for our progression from the group stage, I for one have been able to cheer on the attacking sides, those who make attacking substitutions when another team (such as England) would bring on a defender to entice a typically English, backs-against-the-wall last twenty minutes to the game.
For years, England have bought a smug sense of destiny to every tournament. I recall the aftermath of our destruction against France in Euro 2004 when Captain Beckham and Mr Eriksson informed the French victors that they would see the Three Lions again in the tournament- in the final in a straight-faced, matter-of-fact manner. And for every defeat on penalties, we try to brush ourselves down, find one player/referee to blame for our exit, and prepare for our next campaign, where everyone knows that we will lose on penalties. In the quarter finals. Again.
Yet, due to the ineptitude of a certain manager, and the catastrophic performances of certain players, we have been forced to sit through a summer without a relatively negative and 'plucky' English performance- with the exception of two strolls against the USA and Trinidad and Tobago. And now, the whole nation has been forced to re-evaluate their stance on the English national team. How many of these qualifiers will our team manage to beat? We lost to France earlier in the year, and they proved to be one of the two particularly poor teams in the tournament. Could we defeat some of the other under-achievers like the Italians, who we seem to be evolving into more everyday? Would we have a chance against the Dutch, the Spanish or even the Turks, who all attacked with such potency and venom?
Ultimately, our absence in this exciting Championship leaves us at a proverbial crossroad, with the option of striving to create an exciting football team, or continue as we are, with the arrogance and outdated style that resembles our ever increasing isolation from world football.
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