Players had fans starting to believe again…

The FIFA World Cup™ in Russia began with low expectations for England, but after finally putting to bed those fears of penalty shootouts and advancing to the semi-final, Gareth Southgate’s side have reconnected with the nation and inspired hope for the future.

Interest in the national team was at an all-time low following our defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016. England lacked an identity, a way of playing and a passion that had always been a mainstay of our national team. As a result, with Russia 2018 approaching, our focus was not on winning the competition but rather on rediscovering that identity and giving a good account of ourselves – and this squad did exactly that. In fact, that unusual lack of expectation may have just worked in our favour, as the Three Lions were able to play without the added weight of a nation expecting a second star to be added to the shirt. Lead by the most likeable man on the planet in Gareth Southgate, England certainly established a recognisable style, albeit heavily reliant on set-pieces, and the nation is full of pride after the tournament. When was the last time that happened?

The defeat to Belgium in the third-place play-off was a deflating end to the tournament and would have been the cherry on the icing on the cake for this side. There will always be thoughts of what could have been, but let’s not forget that finishing fourth equals our second-best finish ever in a FIFA World Cup™ and our best on foreign soil. Yes, the draw opened up for us. Yes, we were leading against Croatia in the semi-final and could have managed the game differently. But we can only take the positives away from the competition and there are plenty.

England excited us with some fantastic goals, they kept their heads when faced with the dirty side of the game and, most importantly, they did the country proud both on and off the pitch. The togetherness was there to see throughout the tournament and our young squad made the world’s biggest tournament look like the world’s best lads’ holiday, the relaxed atmosphere was the perfect conditions to push on in the tournament. Expectation may have started at an all-time low, but hope grew and grew as the nation united and really got behind our team. These players had fans starting to believe again.

As a deflated Harry Kane said in his interview after defeat to Belgium, we’ve certainly closed the gap on the top sides, but there’s still room for improvement. Southgate’s side are still learning and growing as a team. When he took over, it was considered a rebuilding job with Euro 2020 tipped to be the tournament when England could start competing again. Who’s to say we can’t use our heartening performances as a springboard to success? I’ll certainly be chalking off the days until England’s next tournament appearance and I see no reason why football won’t be coming home in two years’ time.

The Armchair Reporter tuned into this summer’s tournament with the Official TV of the FIFA World Cup™, the Hisense U7A 4K ULED TV. Specifically designed to offer the greatest possible sporting experience, there’s no better way to experience every moment of the beautiful game, short of sitting in the stands!

Ben Groom
Hisense UK Armchair Reporter