John Lydon nailed it: “England’s dreaming!”
The context is totally wrong, of course, but the country is dreaming. For the first time in 28 years; think about that. Nobody under the age of 35 has seen England in a World Cup semi-final.
You’ve got to be older than that to remember a time when the England team were, by and large, liked. There is a ludicrous minority who hate the Tottenham element of Southgate’s team. It’s not a long stride from that stance to becoming one brick short of the hod and claiming we only won 1 – 0 yesterday because Alli scored.
And this team has, like their 1990 peers, grown on people. Low expectations going into the tournament helped immensely and Gareth Southgate coming across as a bloody nice bloke in the media tops it off. There’s something of the ‘island mentality’ creeping in as well.
Anyone who has trawled social media will see a seething resentment against the English, usually from nations whose football teams weren’t good enough to qualify – often in humiliating circumstances – and those who’ve exited a tournament they expected to win. Or at least be in the last four.
Get over it. That’s the nature of tournament football and you play the cards dealt. England have played them spectacularly well. Organised, disciplined, playing to their strengths, while unafraid of meeting cynicism with cynicism.
Yesterday’s win over Sweden was a pleasant contrast to most other matches in that sense. It came as the Swedes reached the limit of their abilities, as England may in the semi-final.
A thunderous header from Harry Maguire secured him a move to a bigger club in the near future. Comparisons to Tony Adams at a similar age are not so wide of the mark as they seem. Leadership is the key difference between the two.
England, Oh England
And the second goal, Dele Alli’s header, came from a profitable source: the right side where Trippier worked his socks off, in both aspects of the full-back role: defence and attack.
There wasn’t a bad performance from any of those in red and the consistency of that must continue against Croatia, even from those you wouldn’t want anywhere near an Arsenal team. Yes, Henderson, I’m looking at you.
The other Jordan is coming of age in these finals. Beforehand, I advocated Butland but Southgate ignored that sage advice to stick with Pickford and finds himself rewarded a hundred times over. Yesterday proved no exception with the Everton ‘keeper proving his worth at crucial moments. £30m is seeming good value at the momentum until his next mistake, that is.
Raheem Sterling is copping flak this morning and I’m sure he thinks he should have scored, but for running defenders out of position, he deserves credit. His is a completely different role for England; Manchester City players create more for him while the national team needs him to create.
And succeed in bringing Croatia down to our level which has happened in the two knockout phase matches so far. This is the team which swept Argentina aside but struggled to overcome Denmark and Russia for that reason. That’s a thought for later this week.
They just about made it past Russia who took some of the poorest penalties since England’s last shootout before this World Cup. Igor Akinfeev, however, is the unluckiest goalkeeper I’ve seen in shootout, saving a spot kick before watching his efforts wasted by a poor kick by a teammate. Then pushing a kick onto the post only to see it fly behind him and into the other side of the net, instead of going out to safety.
Lucas and Balloon Babies
On the Arsenal front, all eyes are on Lucas Torreira who is according to various sources, at once in South America flying to London next week or in the capital flying a balloon of Donald Trump over London Colney.
Ludicrously, the Spanish media claim Nacho Monreal has been told to do one by Unai Emery. It seems that the Spaniard interrupted the Spaniard’s holiday to deliver the bad news. Me either.
Elsewhere, David Ornstein’s inside track is warped by the heat. Others are claiming that we’re in talks for N’Zonzi and, oh what the hell, who cares? The tattle is such that you know all of it is tosh, and whatever will be will be. Que sera, sera, we’re going to the Luzhniki…