I’ve supported England since 1980. In the 32 years since, England hasn’t won a major international trophy. I’ve never known what it’s like for The Three Lions to win silverware. But I have suffered the agony of defeat, watched plenty of embarrassing performances in tournaments, and had my hopes raised and my heart broken too many times.
It’s just not me either. None of the footballers on the national team have won anything for their country. Other than a small percentage of English older adults, no Englanders knows what it’s like to be a Germany, Italy, Spain or Portugal. Yes, even Portugal. All three of those teams have been in a major international final. England has nothing since 1966. The closest they got to a major final was a World Cup semi-final in 1990 — 22 years ago.
So with England fans and players finding themselves in a position where the team is two wins away from an appearance in a final, it’s no wonder that nerves are beginning to set in. While most of the players on the England team have tasted major trophies, it’s not the same at an international level when your entire country is behind you, not just a section of a nation.
Sometimes we forget that England has never tasted recent success. Our Premier League clubs are so successful in European competitions that it sometimes distracts us, even if the footballers playing fot the English clubs aren’t very English. But when we focus back on the national set, the history, memory and pain of disappointment and defeat sinks home.
This Sunday is an incredible opportunity for England to begin to erase its history of pain. A win will match us up against a Germany side that is so good, they’re scary. But if England can get there again, the belief among England footballers will surge. The players will stand tall, and play with pride, knowing that they’re so close to being a name to be remembered in history.
England can win. They just have to believe in themselves. We do, too.