Why EURO 2024 Could Be England’s Time

The English media has never shied away from outlandishly labelling its national team as the clear favourites going into major tournaments.

Why EURO 2024 Could Be England’s Time


The English media has never shied away from outlandishly labelling its national team as the clear favourites going into major tournaments. In the 57 years since England’s single major tournament triumph, we’ve seen the hailing of countless ‘golden generations’ only for the group to be unheeded months later after failing to bring to football home.


It’s difficult to understand if the sentiment of England’s national team underachieving in major tournaments is reciprocated elsewhere. Prior to the 2006 World Cup many in England felt its star-studded squad, including the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Wayne Rooney would be too much for anyone to handle and that it was surely England’s year, only to be defeated by Portugal on penalties in the quarterfinals.


However, when you analyse the squads of other nations going into the 2006 World Cup, it makes you wonder if, in England, we were a little naïve to mark ourselves as the favourites for the trophy. Brazil boasted previous Ballon D’Or winners Kaka, Ronaldo Nazario, and Ronaldinho in their squad; France had some of the greatest players of all time at their disposal in Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, and Patrick Viera, while eventual winners Italy had footballing greats Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Nesta, and Andrea Pirlo.


It begs me to raise the question; have England ever been the true favourites going into a major tournament? The truth is, contrary to the beliefs of overly demanding supporters and sensationalist tabloid headlines, winning an international tournament is incredibly difficult. While England has had squads crammed full of world-class talent in years gone by, the same can be said for a handful of other nations, who all believe it could be their year.


The Steady Progression to Strong Candidates


But something genuinely does feel different this year, as if the expectation of the nation is justifiable rather than delusional. While manager Gareth Southgate very much split’s opinion among English supporters and press alike, the 53-year-old has undeniably redefined the national team.


When Southgate took over as England manager in 2016, the national team was in a dire state. After an embarrassing EUROS defeat to Scandinavian minnows Iceland, major cultural, developmental, and footballing changes were desperately required to see England competitive become a competitive force in tournaments once more.


Southgate managed to change attitudes around the national team, making watching and interacting with his young team fun for supporters, as an unfancied England side made an unlikely run to the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup.


As Southgate’s squads grown, matured, and been bolstered by emerging world-class talents, the expectation levels for the national team have risen dramatically. Largely, Southgate’s lions have responded, though they have struggled to quite get over the line in defining moments.


In EURO 2020, England once again captured the imagination of the nation, but ultimately failed to make home advantage count after being beaten by Italy on penalties during the Wembley final. Meanwhile, World Cup 2022 saw England perform strongly, but narrowly lost to eventual finalists France in the quarterfinals.


The Conclusion of Southgate’s England at EURO 2024


By the time England play their first EURO’s game this summer, it’ll be 18 months since Southgate’s team was narrowly edged by France in the World Cup, and, if they’re to be successful, you’d imagine they’ll have to get the better of our English Channel neighbours this time around.


But England will have reasons to believe they’ve evolved into Europe’s strongest team in the time that’s passed. Perhaps for the first time, England may now genuinely have the world’s greatest player in Real Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham – if the Birmingham-born midfielder is to prove he’s the world’s best, he may have to nudge England over the line in the biggest moments.


Meanwhile, other members of the England squad have also made significant career progress since the last major tournament. Phil Foden has transformed into the player his potential always threatened he’d become, while John Stones, Declan Rice, and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be in Premier League Player of the Season conversations.


Rumoured to be Southgate’s concluding tournament, with arguably the greatest squad in Europe this time, he may have to deliver the trophy to ensure his time as England manager isn’t reflected on with ‘what ifs.’