Tonight sees England play of their first match following their World Cup quarter-final exit to France. It was a match which promised a lot, however in the end ended – because it so usually does with England – in superb failure. You already know the script, the Three Lions march to the latter phases of a match, play properly (some say dominate) the match towards fancied opposition however come out on the unsuitable facet of the scoreline.
Though, such has been the amnesia surrounding the state of England pre-Southgate (bear in mind Euro 2012, and Iceland 2016?) that many take into account the supposed failure of shedding to a high quality France facet in a World Cup last-eight conflict to be lower than superb. They take into account Qatar 22 one other misplaced alternative for the facet to get its fingers on deserved silverware, to remind the world that England created the sport and that they’d do properly to keep in mind that.
Gareth Southgate is perceived as a the person accountable for this and that’s probably resulting from two issues: (i) he is the England supervisor so any criticism, not with out cause, tends to be thrown at his door, and (ii) his perceived ‘wokeness’.
Anyway, all the points individuals have with Southgate – that he is too defensive, unable to unleash some exceptional attacking expertise (not precisely with out advantage) – cloud one key factor: that England below him have gone from sick man of European soccer to repeatedly qualifying for and being key components in main tournaments. The truth that expectation is so excessive when England play now’s partly right down to him turning the facet round. It is not as if England have been traditionally ladened down with silverware and that his reign has been an enormous anomaly.
Tonight, he and his facet get their qualification for subsequent yr’s European Championships below method with a tough tie towards Italy in Naples. Robust staff to beat in a troublesome place to go (extra on that later). They might properly lose in a rustic they have not gained in in 62 years, however in a gaggle with Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta (in addition to tonight’s hosts) the place two undergo it is exhausting to see Southgate and Co fail to make it to Germany subsequent summer time. And yet one more journey to a significant match is nothing to show your noses up at.
Keep right here for all of the staff information, pre-match build-up and motion, witch kick-off set for 7.45pm.