In years to come we will look back on the summer of 2018 with such fond memories. The weather was scorching, as were the thousands of BBQs taking place up and down the country every evening, and the England national side restored levels of hope, admiration and pride not seen since the semi-final of Italia ’90.
It’s tough to review what happened last night but we will try anyway; after all, it started so well. Kieran Trippier’s 20-yard free-kick after only five minutes sent us delirious and in a first half which England dominated, everything looked as if it was going to plan. Perisic’s 68th-minute equaliser brought back the familiar feeling of worry and when Mario Mandzukic scored late in extra time, we knew the dream was over.
Inconsolable at the final whistle, the England players expressed the pain in their faces (and tears) – but they must take great pride in their performances. This was an England side unfancied by many, travelling to Russia with no expectations for success. They defied the critics by reaching the semi-finals and they need to take this learning experience and build on it for future tournaments.
But what does this have to do with sports tours? The England squad were not the most gifted, nor the most revelled. They did,
however, share a superb team spirit and bond which goes a long way when playing fixtures away from home. Working hard as a team, doing the basics well and following the manager’s instructions are all qualities you will need when going on tour. It’s not about having a team of superstars (Germany, Spain, and Brazil soon found this out) but believing in one another and giving players the freedom to perform their simple game.
When Southgate and his players return back to the UK they will receive huge praise as they have done so much to restore England’s reputation and reconnect with the fans.
Hopefully, they have also inspired you and your team to do the basics well, believe in your teammates and stick together next time you’re out on tour. Who knows? You may even reach a semi-final of your own.