30 July marks the 50th anniversary of England’s single World Cup win. It’s also the only time England made the final of a major tournament. Without detracting from a great achievement, England’s lack of international success since is pretty embarrassing. Will the Allardyce era reap rewards?
I wasn’t aware how interested other countries were in England’s perpetual failure at international level until I went to the 2014 World Cup Brazil and saw this local Skol advert. It mocks England for having invented the game but not having won anything since 1966.
There is a propensity to cling to 1966 in England, almost out of desperation. It’s the one reference point for when the team achieved anything, and it’s so far back it’s in black-and-white. England’s football team is an international joke. Lufthansa, the German carrier and home of the Weltmeister, took a swipe at England in a Euro 2016 advert this summer.
In every other sport, English (note I’m talking about England, not Britain, here) sportsmen and women are excelling: The Grand Slam-winning, Australia-whitewashing rugby union team, the World Champion women’s rugby team, recent Tour de France winners, incredible athletes in multiple disciplines, the Formula One world champion, the Ashes-holding cricket team within an over of winning the T20 World Cup this year.
But the England football team? Nothing in recent years. Not even a final at a Euros. Denmark, Greece, Portugal have all been European Champions while England hasn’t event made a single Euro final.
England are the Newcastle United of international football: won nothing since the sixties, came tantalisingly close to glory in the nineties, a proverbial ‘sleeping giant’ with fans whose justified expectations of talented players is always frustrated.
Is it because of this apparent weight of history that seasoned Champions League professionals in the last two tournaments could not beat the likes of Slovakia, Costa Rica, Russia and Iceland?
Let’s hope that Iceland was the nadir. That, like Spain before 2008, this is a turning point that turns underachievers into world-beaters. Sam Allardyce certainly has a record of getting people to play for him, and has a promising group of players to work with.
Russia 2018 and the next multi-venue Euros (final’s at Wembley) offer good opportunities for a trophy.
Meanwhile, 1966 gets further and further away. Jules Rimet’s not gleaming; it was stolen from CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) headquarters in 1983 and never recovered, possibly melted down.
Sure, let’s celebrate the anniversary of the achievement of the team in 1966, but we need a new victorious cultural point of reference. Let’s hope Sam Allardyce is the man to deliver it.