All the talk before the World Cup about England was about how inexperienced the players were, and how they had little international experience.
However, courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Sweden, Gareth Southgate’s side will now be playing in a World Cup semi-final against Croatia on Wednesday night.
The primary factor behind the Three Lions progression has been the fearlessness they have shown so far in Russia. It is has been refreshing to watch the English national team so relaxed and comfortable.
No World Cup neurosis
In previous international tournaments, England players have suffered from severe neurosis. Unfortunately, it led to the players being terrified to play for the national team at big tournaments.
Some of the teams in the last two decades have no doubt contained better groups of players. However, it was not the player’s quality that let the side down. It was that they could not handle the pressure.
The more international tournaments these players played at, the worse it seemed to get. The likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney all suffered from the weight of expectation.
Failure at a big tournament led to fear in the next, and it led to more failure. It took ultimate failure to lower the expectation of England fans.
Inexperienced international players showing no fear
Players inexperienced at international level have driven England’s performance at World Cup 2018. The likes of Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier have been some of the standout players, despite only becoming regulars for the Three Lions in recent months.
The number of caps each player has won for England is a stark reminder of just how inexperienced these players are at international level. Pickford has won only eight caps, Maguire 10 and Trippier 11.
Looking at them in Russia, you really would not know, as all three seem to have been playing at international level their whole careers. The England squad for World Cup 2018 is the least experienced ever. That inexperience has helped the team progress so far.
No carrying the failures of the past
The majority of the current England squad have not featured at previous big international tournaments. They are not carrying the burden of past failures.
Boss Gareth Southgate also deserves immense credit for showing faith in the inexperienced players, some of whom he worked with as England under-21 boss. He has been brave in his selections and not shirked making the big decisions.
No matter what happens here on in for England in Russia, this current group of players has brought back the feel-good factor for the fans. The previous teams had created a cynical attitude towards the Three Lions.
However, Southgate’s inexperienced team has brought the smiles back to the faces of England fans. This atmosphere is likely to sustain beyond the World Cup, even if football does not come home.
The trick is for Gareth Southgate to maintain it long enough for his team to qualify and make an impact that Euro 2020. However, by then it is realistic that incredibly the Three Lions could be world champions.
Would a more experienced England team have made it this far in World Cup 2018?