England’s incredible summer, which culminated in a semi-final appearance at the World Cup in Russia, has prompted renewed positivity in the national team. Fans can now look forward to the 2020 European Championships with genuine hope of success, rather than cautious optimism.
A power shift in Europe
The World Cup also highlighted many of the traditional superpowers of European football are no longer the forces they once were. Spain and Germany failed to live up to their usual high standards, while Holland and Italy were not even present having failed to qualify. And like Spain, reigning European champions Portugal fell in the round of 16.
But despite the failure of those powerhouses, the semi-finals were made up of four European teams: France, Belgium, Croatia, and England. Of those, only France were expected to reach the latter stages, perhaps signalling a new era for European national football.
This raises the prospect that we could see another surprise winner in Euro 2020. Portugal are undoubtedly a talented side, but few predicted they would win Euro 2016. Cristiano Ronaldo is still performing at the highest level – his Juventus side are odds-on favourites to win an eighth-straight title in the Serie A betting – but the influential forward will be 35 years old by the time the next tournament starts.
Ahead of target
So, can England take advantage of their stuttering neighbours and step up to be the next European powerhouse and challenge the likes of France for Euro glory?
Way back in 2013, former FA chairman Greg Dyke declared England would target the semi-finals of the 2020 European Championships and attempt to win the World Cup in 2022. In that respect, the Three Lions are already ahead of target.
It is worth remembering that while the tournament will be played across 12 countries, the semi-finals and final will be held at Wembley Stadium, giving England home advantage should they make it that far. If they do, the choruses of “football’s coming home” will ring even truer.
England will also get to play at least two of their group stage matches on home turf should they qualify for the event. Since 2007, they have only lost one match on home soil, the recent defeat to Spain.
Gareth Southgate’s men will be able to use St George’s Park as a base, making them feel right at home throughout. This, combined with minimal travelling and their current good form will give England their best chance of winning the European Championships since 1996 when they hosted the event.
On top of all that, the fans are behind the team in a way that hasn’t been seen in a couple of decades. There is a genuine feeling that this current group can go on to achieve great things.
And Southgate’s charges will get to warm-up next summer by competing in the Nations League. With France, Spain, Belgium, and Germany all having failed to reach the finals, England stand a great chance of going all the way. While it may be a new tournament, lifting the trophy would boost current morale off the scale.