England dreams of finally asserting itself at the highest level

Harry Kane, left and his partners celebrate the third of seven English goals against Montenegro at Wembley Stadium in London, November 14 ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP

There are more glorious qualifications than others. While the French team struggled, Thursday, November 14, to beat a weak Moldovan team (2-1), a few hours after the validation of sesame for Euro 2020 with the draw between Iceland and Turkey, the England offered a demonstration to its audience at Wembley. 7-0 against Montenegro, 5-0 after thirty minutes of play.

This festival allowed both the Three Lions to qualify for Euro 2020, even before the final match of the qualifying phase, Sunday, November 17 against Kosovo, and to celebrate with dignity the 1000th match of the selection, the figure the highest in the world.

However, 147 years after the first international meeting of history – a scant 0-0 against Scotland – the record of the English team remains little glorious: a World Cup, won at home in 1966, and then that's all. No title to the Euro, not even a final.

England, often classified as contender, disappoints. The Euro 2016 in France is the last example: after a brilliant 10/10 in the qualifying matches, Roy Hodgson's players suffered the insult of elimination in the round of 16 by the small Iceland (2-1 ).

But for Euro 2020, which will be played in twelve countries, the semi-finals and final will be held at Wembley. England is also guaranteed to play two home pool matches. A new failure would be even more bitter.

Young people

Gareth Southgate in the quarter-finals of the World Cup against Sweden, July 7, 2018 in Samara
Gareth Southgate in the quarter-finals of the World Cup against Sweden, July 7, 2018 in Samara LEE SMITH / REUTERS

Will Gareth Southgate be the man who breaks the curse? The English manager, who arrived three years ago, has managed a promising World Cup in 2018, the Three Lions reaching the semifinals, eliminated in overtime by the Croatians.

The former defenseman at 57 selections caused a revolution in the national selection. Finished the long game, this "kick and rush" that has long been a stereotype of English teams. In the image of the transformation of English clubs, like Liverpool or Manchester City, the short game and the recovery are now favored.

The coach has also not forgotten his place at the head of the selection of prospects from 2013 to 2016. For the victory against Montenegro, Gareth Southgate has aligned eleven 23 years and 255 days of average age, the most young since 1959. " We have to find the right balance with this youth, but most of the time, they are our best players Says Southgate.

The English squad, long decried and stifled by the English championship, is waking up: in 2017, the under-17s (U17) were world champions, while the under-19s (U19) won the European championship .

New Chelsea nugget Tammy Abraham, 22 and top scorer in the English league, winger Borussia Dortmund Jason Sancho, 19 years old and symbol of the English youth who finally dares to venture on the continent, the talents are not lacking.

Not to mention Marcus Rashford, 22, who feels like he is already part of the furniture with his 34 selections. Even the captain and star of the Harry Kane team is only 26 years old.

Admittedly, the English team in 2016 was already the youngest player in the Euro, but with some very active veterans, like Wayne Rooney. " Euro 2020 may be a bit too early but by 2022 they will be very strong "Warns former international and BBC flagship consultant Gary Lineker.

Defense, a matter of concern

The qualifying campaign was a formality, with six wins in seven games before the last match against Kosovo, and an attack that averages close to five goals every 90 minutes.

Only hitch, as to break the image of champions of minor matches, the defeat 2-1 conceded in the Czech Republic in October, the first qualification in 10 years.

This defeat will shed light on certain English difficulties. In the semi-finals of the League of Nations, played in June in Portugal, the English were eliminated 3-1 by the Netherlands, showing a lot of waste in the game and recovery and a great excitement in defense. Once again, the Three Lions were confined to places of honor.

The defense is also a source of concern, even against opponents who are not prominent like the Czechs or even Kosovars, with three goals conceded at home (5-3).

Traditional weak points, see topics of mockery, the English goals are kept by Jordan Pickford, 15th of Premier League with Everton, which does not offer any guarantees either.

Joe Gomez, right, and Raheem Sterling lose English phlegm in the Premier League clash between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield, November 10, 2019
Joe Gomez, right, and Raheem Sterling lose English phlegm in the Premier League clash between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield, November 10, 2019 Peter Byrne / AP

The weight of club rivalries

The rivalries of clubs also reflect on the selection. At the start of the rally on Monday, November 11, an altercation between Manchester City striker Raheem Sterling and Liverpool defender Joe Gomez: the two players had already clung the day before in the clash between the two Premier League juggernauts.

Sterling was out of the group for the match against Montenegro but is back for Kosovo. Upon entry, Joe Gomez was whistled by some of the Wembley crowd.

Coach Gareth Southgate, who has little club experience in Middlesbrough 2006-2009, is also criticized for coaching during the match, which was deemed insufficiently effective.

Finally, the mind remains in the big competitions, after so many disappointments. " We need character in the team. We still have to make progress on this when we face big teams like France, Spain or the Netherlands », Admits the coach.

The revival of English clubs in the European Cup last season, with two finals 100% Premier League concluding several years of scarcity, may inspire until selection.


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