It’s painful to realize that England was probably a penalty away from winning the semi-final against Italy. If Ashley Young’s penalty had gone under the crossbar, I have no doubt that England would have gone to win the shootout. The pressure would have been heaped back on Italy, who may have made another mistake. And Ashley Cole may have then gone on to score. They were that close.
Despite how close they were, many of the readers on this site (and others) want to dismantle this England team. Rip it apart, change the tactics, and bring in the youth. To make matters worse, readers are criticizing this England team, saying how poor it is. I completely disagree.
The reason I disagree is because I felt England punched above its weight, held a previous World Cup champion goalless for 120 minutes and came within a whisker of being in the final four of one of the greatest soccer tournaments in the world.
We should not be criticizing. We should be patting the players and the manager on the back for an incredible tournament where they were undefeated in regulation time.
Yes, I would have loved to see them be more adventurous when going forward. And yes they were boring to watch against Italy. But so too was Spain against France.
Changes are certainly needed when World Cup qualifying begins later this summer. But they should be small tweaks rather than major upheavals. Manager Roy Hodgson is the one to continue leading us forward. And there are plenty of options to add depth to this England squad. Seeing young footballers, such as Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and so many others, fills me with encouragement for the future.
Even as an extreme diehard soccer fan, I will be watching the rest of the Euro 2012 games with a passing interest. I’m not as excited to watch them now that England is out partly because England is out of the tournament, but also because the script is so predictable. Spain against Germany in the final once again. I hope I’m wrong. I’m pulling for a Portugal-Italy final to mix things up.
I can hold my head up high knowing that England performed better than Netherlands, Russia, Poland, Denmark and, I would argue, France – who deconstructed in their final match against Spain.
Ignore the critics and be proud of what England achieved. The team will achieve even more in 2014. I have no doubt about that.