For as much as England’s World Cup 2018 run was a rollercoaster of fun-filled memories and bred a collective spirit amongst a divided public, there was still a sense that it represented an opportunity missed to cure the World Cup heartache that has infected the nation since 1966. After taking the lead against Croatia in the semi-final in Moscow, it looked as though England were headed to a first World Cup final for 52 years. Of course, it ended in heartbreak that night, and the nation’s wait for glory went on.
But the beginning of a new decade means new memories can be made. Past disappointments can be consigned to the past with the prospect of another major tournament around the corner, and Gareth Southgate’s men have their sights firmly set on another stab at success at Euro 2020.
The latest UEFA Euro 2020 betting odds cast England as favourites to win the competition, and much of this may come down to the fact that the Three Lions will play all their group games at Wembley, with the semi-finals and final also set to be staged at the North London ground. England have not played tournament football on home soil since Euro ’96, when Terry Venables’ side made it all the way to the semi-finals before Southgate’s unsuccessful penalty saw them exit at the hands of Germany.
Now, 24 years on, Southgate has the chance to exorcise those painful memories. He has done a fine job since taking over after the debacle that was Sam Allardyce’s short-lived tenure. Southgate has created a kind of togetherness within the squad that England lacked under Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello, and Roy Hodgson. Now, with the prospect of home advantage at a major tournament, that sense of unity can be ramped up another notch.
If England can navigate their group and come through the round of 16 and quarter-finals, then they will have an added advantage. The Three Lions play most of their home matches at Wembley throughout the year, so compared to other top nations who prefer to play home games in different stadiums around the country, England have the advantage of having a stadium that is a true home.
The experience of Russia 2018 will stand the squad in good stead heading into the Euros. Should England progress to the later stages of the competition, they will be able to draw from their experiences at the World Cup, and may feel more comfortable at the business end of a major finals. On the other hand, the fact that the semi-finals and final are at Wembley could bring unique pressure to England as opposed to other teams who might make it to that stage, but you feel that Southgate has the requisite nous to guard against any deficiencies to England’s mentality that home advantage may bring.
It looks possible that star striker Harry Kane, who won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, will miss out on the tournament after suffering a hamstring injury while playing for Tottenham Hotspur. There are also doubts surrounding Marcus Rashford, with Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remaining tight-lipped about whether or not he will return from injury before the end of the season.
These potential strains on the playing squad will mean that England will need the psychological boost of home advantage at Euro 2020 all the more. The question is whether they can fully cash in on this bonus, or if the tournament will prove another nearly moment for Southgate’s men.