Like a cheap firework England’s World Cup started with promise, climaxed in disappointment, and fizzled out in whimpering regret.
The draw against group topping Costa Rica was not only thoroughly underwhelming, but also incredibly boring. A much changed England unable to find a rhythm against the already qualified Costa Ricans, who were clearly focused on the next round. The game spluttered and farted along for ninety minutes without anything of real note occurring. And then the tournament was over.
It’s been England’s worst showing at a World Cup since nineteen fifty whatever, and the first time they’ve not won a group game since blah-de-blah-de-blah… In isolation, this tournament was an abject failure, but it was never meant to be taken in isolation. These were the first steps in in a marathon with failure being largely irrelevant.
What England have achieved is a new beginning. Shaking off the shackles of four four two, and leaving behind a generation of international underachievers in Ferdinand, Terry and Cole et al. They’ve begun the foundations of a new national team and blooded young, hungry attacking players of our future.
The changes that Hodgeson has made to the national squad can be easily missed at first glance but these are the changes that will have the biggest impact further down the line. When his tenure ends after the 2016 Euros a suitably groomed Gary Neville can take the reigns to continue the nurturing that has begun at this World Cup. An eight to twelve year period where, with consistency and stability, a philosophy can be built.
It’s clear there is work to be done. Defensively lacking and occasionally blunt in attack, now, with impressionable, mouldable younger players, systems can begin to be cultured, England can learn to defend as a team, and an ethos can be instilled for future England players to adopt and seamlessly gel with.
I may be overly optimistic in this viewpoint. For all this to come to fruition the FA need to have the want and wherewithal to follow through on promises of youth development and coaching. Both are desperately needed in quality and quantity and for my utopian future of an England with a footballing identity it is essential. The FA also need to have the plums to be patient and proactive. Not reactionary.
My naive idealism may come back to bite me on four years time when England spectacularly flop yet again. But like Mulder and Scully I want to believe. It is possible for England to be successful again.