England

Well, looks like “it’s not coming come.” The final for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is set, with France set to take on Croatia in Moscow Sunday morning. However, with how big that matchup is going to be, the biggest storyline right after the England-Croatia game centers around the losers, England. They shocked the entire football world making it this far.

The Brits took the lead on Kieran Trippier’s wonder free-kick towards the beginning of the game and held that lead for just over an hour before Croatia equalized. From there, the game was a stalemate, with both sides creating opportunities but not able to see them through.

They were on the verge of making it to just their second ever World Cup finals appearance, and first since 1966 when they beat West Germany 4-2. In 1990, they had a chance to make their second appearance but they faced West Germany, and they got their revenge on penalties.

But ultimately, England exited disappointingly. But the players should hold their heads high and stand tall. This was a special tournament. The nation had not made past the Round of 16 in 28 years, and they broke that curse this year. And while doing so, they also scored a record 14 goals in their six games; most by a British team at a World Cup. That alone should be considered an achievement.

England has long been considered a team of underachievers. Their “Golden Generation” also had extreme hype surrounding them, but never lived up to them. The like of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, etc. They were supposed to be the ones “to bring it home.” But the expectations may have been too much of a burden on their shoulders.

Failure to get out of the group stages in the 2016 Euros and 2014 World Cup the tipping point. Non-stop scrutiny and criticism from national media, pundits, and fans. Too many expectations can be detrimental, which is why this year’s team was successful. Or you can argue it.

Their manager, Gareth Southgate, was not supposed to be here. He was just an interim manager last year before securing the managerial position. But he was a rookie to the job, and not many appreciated the hire. But he assembled the youngest team that England has ever fielded at a World Cup. It was a calculated risk.

The youth brought in a fresh energy that the former players lacked. They had no expectations placed upon them because of their inexperience. Other than Harry Kane, the rest of the team lacked an elite game-changers as past teams had in Beckham, Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard. They had a handful of young guys who had that potential, but that’s it, ‘potential.’

They were years away from reaching their ability. Not much eas expected from them. They were hungry, fearless, and playing with house money and a passion we haven’t seen from an England side for a while. It feels like the first time, at least in my lifetime, that the whole country got behind the team instead of being so negative and harsh.

But this is just the start of something unique building with the British. They are well-positioned to succeed at 2020’s Euros and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Their best players are young and only going to get better. Raheem Sterling is 23, Marcus Rashford 20, Harry Kane 24 (turning 25 at the end of the month), Dele Alli 22, Jesse Lingard 25, John Stones 24, Harry Maguire 25.

By the time 2020 comes around, England will be fielding these guys when they are, in order from the previous paragraph, 25, 22, 26, 24, 27, 26, and 27. And when they travel to Qatar, they will be 27, 24, 28, 26, 29, 28, 29. At the peak of their powers, but there will be others as well.

This squad has done something that previous teams could not. They may not be as individually talented as England’s “Golden Generation,” they play better with each other and have better chemistry, making them, perhaps, the better team.

Losing heartbreakingly always stings, but the players should feel prideful. They made a whole country and fanbase proud. Perhaps this can be their “Golden Generation” of sorts. The best is yet to come.