Saturday, July 24, 2021

England setting the bar after decades of underachievement as Walker suggests ´it means something now

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 9 Jul 2021

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Kyle Walker feels England have set the bar for future generations at Euro 2020 following decades of disappointment and is convinced a rediscovered sense of national pride in the team has inspired them.

England beat Denmark 2-1 after extra time on Wednesday to secure a first ever appearance in the European Championship final, having not reached the showpiece of any major international tournament since winning the World Cup in 1966.

That 55-year period is the longest gap between major finals for any European nation, and now only Italy stand between England and the trophy.

The closest England had ever got to winning the competition before 2021 was in 1996 when they fell at the semi-finals stage, with the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ that followed defined by their underachievement as they never got beyond a quarter-final at the World Cup or Euros.

But under Gareth Southgate there have been strong hints of change, as they finished fourth at Russia 2018 and then also reached the semi-finals of the inaugural Nations League, and Walker believes the team’s mentality is finally becoming aligned with the expectations of supporters.

“I think when you put on an England shirt – definitely in the past four years – it means something now,” Walker told the FA’s YouTube channel.

“I have heard a lot of people talking about how England haven’t won a knockout game, England haven’t won a penalty shoot-out, England haven’t got this, England haven’t got that.

“This group of lads – with the manager and the coaching staff – we just keep knocking them down and we have set the bar now for the future youngsters that are coming through.

“This is what our country wants and expects of us.”

England will, of course, be considered “hosts” for the final given it – like all but one of their previous Euro 2020 games – will be played at Wembley, and there are certain advantages attached to that.

Although the past two host-nation finalists (Portugal at Euro 2004 and France at Euro 2016) of a major tournament lost the decider, prior to 2004 only Sweden (1958 World Cup) had been beaten during a final on their own turf.

The omens are generally positive for the Three Lions, who have won 15 and lost just one of their previous 17 matches at Wembley. While Italy will likely pose a challenge greater than most of the opponents in that run, Walker feels it gives England an edge – and he will not entertain back-handed comments about their status as hosts.

“These emotions and these types of games grab hold of you,” he said. “We want one more effort from the fans – because that 12th man is vital.

“I hear people complaining now that England have got an advantage playing at home. But we never complained when we played certain people in their back yard, it is just the rub of the green.”

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