1. England reach their first final in 55 years.
Coming into the tournament, this England squad boasted a wealth of attacking talent, with fans considering it to be our most exciting squad for many a year. Youth was certainly on our side, as it was the second youngest squad at this championships. Thus, the tenacity and fortitude to even reach the final itself after such a dismal record in semi-finals deserves a huge amount of praise.
England grew gradually into the tournament after a low key start to proceedings with cagey 1-0 wins over Croatia and the Czech Republic, and a disappointing stalemate with Scotland.
The knockout stages beckoned and England caught fire after dumping Germany out in the last sixteen, then thumping the Ukraine 4-0 in Rome with a scintillating and complete performance.
Heroes had emerged right across the pitch as so many players were standing up to be counted when it mattered most. Jordan Pickford looked unbeatable, as did Harry Maguire every time someone dared to challenge him in our penalty area.
Luke Shaw was having the tournament of his life alongside Raheem Sterling, who simply couldn’t stay out of the headlines for all the right reasons, whilst Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips formed a partnership forged from steel as they covered every blade of grass on the pitch
Likewise, expectations were raised as ever, and a semi-final with Denmark handed us an opportunity to erase the memories of so many failures to overcome this gargantuan hurdle.
Falling behind for the first time in the tournament, England showed great intestinal fortitude to fightback and eventually triumph in a match that shredded the nerves of every single fan across the country.
Harry Kane would lead us to the promise land as his missed penalty was rammed home past Kasper Schmeichel on the rebound, and in that very moment it was almost if time had come to a standstill as we prayed for the ball to land back at our captain’s feet.
England deservedly held on for the remainder of extra-time in a occasion which had eaten them alive so many times before, it wouldn’t this time however, as the Three Lions had finally roared in the semi-final cauldron where they had failed for the last 55 years.
The final saw England draw first blood on the Italians as Luke Shaw crashed home a volley in only the second minute, and it truly felt as though football would actually finally come home until Leonardo Bonucci levelled, and England began to backpedal in the contest. They would eventually lose out to Penalty heartbreak once again after the game had ended as a 1-1 draw.
Although this England team ultimately came up short, it was a magical time to be a fan and support our country, as Gareth Southgate took us to brave new place’s that our generation could only dream about previously.
A semi-final and final in our last two Major tournaments stands this talented crop of players in great stead for the next World Cup, and we must look ahead with excitement as I believe that this group can only learn and grow from so many positive experiences over this inspirational summer.
Roll on Qatar 2022!
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