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12th Jun 2016

It would be the most English thing in the world now to panic when it’s really not necessary

England are going to stop themselves winning Euro 2016

Conan Doherty

Danny Rose jumps a bit higher, a bit sooner, England win.

Vasili Berezutski doesn’t climb all over the back of the full back, England win.

Adam Lallana finishes just one of his three gilt-edged chances, Wayne Rooney isn’t denied brilliantly by the right hand of the Russian goalkeeper, or dominance counts on the scoreboard and England are top of Group B.

England v Russia - Group B: UEFA Euro 2016

Amidst the last-minute equaliser, the crowd trouble and the bowed heads that the poor English players had to hold for a good 100 metres through a zig-zagging mixed zone of hungry journalists, it’s easy to forget that, actually, England played well.

It’s easy forget that Kyle Walker looked like a full back beyond his years who was equally as terrifying going forward as he was comfortable at the back.

It’s easy to forget that Lallana was sharp, that Dele Alli was exciting and that even Wayne Rooney looked the part as Roy Hodgson’s men strutted around Marseille with pace and zip and they had the Russians scared half to death to even attempt anything.

It’s easy to forget that Harry Kane is the real deal, a complete footballer who, even when he doesn’t score or particularly threaten, still holds himself with the stature that might even suggest he’s the best striker in this competition.

But that gets forgotten with a strike of a football. England want it so desperately that they can’t even reason anymore.

And, as the opportunities came and they inevitably went, as the game remained scoreless and as they failed to capitalise on their stunning pressure, the same old thing happened. The players reverted, they shrunk, they started to pass the buck and the crowd, of course, began to get on top of them.


For about an hour of Saturday’s clash with Russia, England looked like potential tournament winners.

The team looked good, fresh, confident and the English fans that followed them to the Stade Véledrome were a frightening prospect that gave their chances a whole new edge. At least three quarters of the stadium was filled with St. George’s flags, the noise of them as the PA countdown marked their opening kick-off to Euro 2016 and the bursts of God Save The Queen and Free From Desire – whichever – were deafening.

If a Russian chant even dared to mumble, it was shouted down and jeered by the dominant English who looked for all the world that they were the real deal, on the pitch and in the stands.

Then a ball lobbed over Joe Hart’s head.

Then, a short-term result became a reflection of their long-term potential.

Then, the build-up to Thursday’s game against Wales suddenly transformed from what would’ve been a week of peacocking to the same old must-win pressure-cooker that’s going to burn its players alive.

One desperate shot from a team who were afraid to even hold the ball for 10-second spells against England has completely changed the mood of the nation and its media and even its players.

But, do you know what? If they let a shit goal like that dictate the rest of their tournament or how they approach the next game, they deserve everything they get.

Because, if they just looked past it and got over it and got over themselves for once, they’d see that they actually have a team here that’s ready to compete. Finally. At last.

But they don’t let themselves compete. Not without paying penance first for insignificant sins.

England could win Euro 2016. But if the hysteria that followed one goal on Saturday is anything to go by, they won’t let themselves go out and win it. They never do.

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