Reasons to be cheerful after England’s Euro 2020 defeat

If you are feeling glum this morning about what now feels like an inevitable defeat on penalties for England on Sunday night, here are a few reasons to brighten your step.

Much has been made of the likability and social conscience of this group of Engeland spelers. There is so much attacking talent in the squad, which was one of the youngest Engeland had ever taken to a tournament. With the experience of reaching a final, they can only improve, and the core of this team will be around for years to come.

And in defeat, they were truly role models, and there for each other at the end, exemplified by Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips running half the length of the pitch to console Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka after that fateful penalty miss.

While we cannot entirely sweep away the unsavoury aspects of behaviour and the racist abuse directed at players by some on social media, the team have brought a huge amount of joy during the summer after months of frustration over dealing with a pandemic. When the pain of defeat recedes, people will be able to look back on some great days and nights spent cheering on the Three Lions with friends and family, and in some cases, throwing beer over total strangers in joy.

For a bunch of mostly millionaires, the England squad seem to have managed to reconnect the game with the public. Gone are the aloof days of the early 2000s’ so-called golden generation, replaced by directly approachable young men expressing their hopes and dreams.

There has also been a breath of fresh air from the FA. Often criticised for a staid and old-fashioned approach to running the game, the England TikTok account alone has been a constant source of enjoyment during the tournament.

The FA this morning has also led with two messages – one a wholehearted condemnation of racism, and the other trying to link the game to the grassroots footballers up and down the country who are just beginning to dust off their boots for the season ahead. It feels like, just a few months after the European Super League debacle from England’s leading club sides, the national team can at least walk forward with pride.

They may have fallen at the last hurdle of penalties, but take a step back and England’s tournament record at Euro 2020 is incredible and something they genuinely can be proud of. Put it this way, there cannot be many teams in history who have gone seven games unbeaten at a tournament, winning five, drawing two, only conceding two goals, and still not coming away with the trophy.

The National newspaper in Scotland had faced some stick from po-faced commentators mocking its decision at the weekend to focus the front page on a match Scotland were not involved in.

Egter, on Sunday night its social media team was quick on the draw when Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini hauled back Saka on the touchline, with a tweet that turned out to be a prescient verdict on where the evening was heading.

England might be heartbroken, but it is always lovely to spread a smile somewhere. Even if it is Scotland.

Gareth Southgate will still be England manager. Wel, waarskynlik. His current contract takes him to the end of the 2022 Wêreldbeker, which is being held – Covid permitting – in November and December next year in Qatar.

The FA has already said it would be interested in extending it. The chief executive, Mark Bullingham, backed Southgate when the team were preparing to face Germany earlier in Euro 2020, sê: “Gareth knows exactly how we feel about him. We feel he is brilliant, both on and off the pitch. We would love him to carry on, for sure, beyond this contract.”

Egter, do not be surprised if you see Southgate’s name heavily linked with any managerial vacancy that comes up over the next few months, whether it is with Leyton Orient or Liverpool.

The rerecorded Southgate You’re the One (Football’s Coming Home Again) is the band’s first top 10 hit in the UK since 2005.

England is hosting the women’s Euro 2022 next year, and Northern Ireland have qualified for the tournament too. Advanced tickets go on sale this week. England’s women have been runners-up twice before in 1984 en 2009. Can they go one step further at Wembley on 31 July next year? Save the date.

And before all that, there is the small matter of Team GB playing in the women’s football competition in the Olympics. Their first match is against Chile on Wednesday 21 Julie.

The Covid delay to Euro 2020 means we are not that far away from the next tournament. England currently top their World Cup qualifying group and if they can get decent results away to Hungary and Poland in the next round of games in September, they will be well on their way to securing their spot in the 32-team tournament.

Which means that come the end of 2022, we are almost certainly guaranteed adverts that combine football and Christmas. And surely record executives are already planning a festive version of Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again that feature sleigh bells, a children’s choir and Noddy Holder bellowing “It’s Sooooouuuuuuthhhgate!!!”. Maybe, just maybe, the World Cup will be coming home for Christmas.

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