Pre-tournament hype not living up to expectations – Check!
Supporters coming crashing back to earth after defeat – Check!
That defeat coming in the Quarter-Final – Check
That defeat coming in the form of a penalty shootout – Check!
It’s the same old story told time and time again, but with a different author at the helm. It claimed the tenure of Sven Goran-Eriksson in 2006 and Terry Venables in 1996, but England had renewed optimism under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, but to no avail. Once more, England succumbed to the inevitable heartache in the form of a penalty shootout defeat, this time to Italy and once more, a nation reflects on what might have been.
I think it’s important to look at England’s failure from a neutral perspective, albeit through blue and white tinted glasses, but a neutral nonetheless. England went into Euro 2012 relatively unfancied in terms of expectations with many previously predicting a quarter final berth would be the most realistic achievement for the team, but as the group stage progressed, confidence grew amongst players, managers and supporters, something that England have been all-too-good at recently.
One such supporter, or pundit as he is to be professionally known, claimed that England would have to keep an eye on Germany, who they would have played in the Semi-Final had they progressed. This demonstrates that pundits already had England reaching the Semi-Finals before a ball had been kicked in the Quarter-Final.
England progressed from Group D with ease, topping the group in the process largely because of Sweden’s surprising victory over France. Many suggested that England were convincing in the group stage, but they ignore the fact that against France, the team they aimed to beat to first place, they only managed five attempts at goal compared to the 21 attempts by France. However, they claimed a credible draw and set their stall out for the tournament, albeit in particularly unconvincing fashion.
Next up was an unfancied Sweden side who had been noticeably outplayed by hosts Ukraine on the opening round of fixtures and once again, expectations for an England win were high. In the end, they claimed victory but once again, question marks were raised as Sweden matched England in terms of possession, shots on goal and corners. It took a deflected Theo Walcott effort and a Danny Welbeck finish to cancel out Olof Mellberg’s headed double which had earlier made Andy Carroll’s opening goal redundant. The final game of the group stages saw England take on Ukraine knowing that avoiding defeat would see them into the Quarter Finals. England were once again unconvincing, but victory courtesy of Wayne Rooney’s poaching finish overshadowed an otherwise uninspiring performance.
England might have been through, but they didn’t look like winners or as if anything had changed since the World Cup in 2010, but that didn’t deter their supporters from believing that they could win the tournament.
Italy was the opposition in the Quarter-Finals in Kiev and hopes were high. Could this finally be “our” year? Can “we” finally win a major tournament? No is the answer to both of those questions as once again the penalty curse struck England and Italy progressed courtesy of Ashley Young and Ashley Cole’s failed attempts. A nation’s heart was broken, but it was clear from the group stage that England did not have what it takes to win a tournament like Euro 2012 and in fact, they are far from the standard of the eventual winners Spain.
Perhaps, it would be easier if England set their sights a little more realistically; whether they do that or not, we will wait and see in Brazil in 2014. That is of course, if England manage to qualify…