If England don't win Euro 2024, when will they ever bring football home?

England Euro 2024

England kick off their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia tonight

PA
Jack Otway

By Jack Otway


Published: 16/06/2024

- 08:00

The Three Lions face Serbia in their Euro 2024 opener tonight

Three years ago, as a football frenzy swept over the country, England looked destined to bring football home.

The celebrations after a dramatic, pulsating 2-1 victory over Denmark at Wembley certainly suggested the Three Lions believed that, after 55 years of hurt, their wait for a major trophy would be over.


Italy in the final? No problem. England had Wembley. They had Harry Kane. They had Gareth Southgate, the man who had breathed new life into the squad and done what no other manager since Sir Alf Ramsey could - steering England to a major final.

Yet football doesn't always read the script and the final of Euro 2021 remains a raw, rancid memory for millions on these shores.

England Euro 2024

England kick off their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia tonight

PA

England should have beaten Italy, especially after going ahead through Luke Shaw.

When that goal went in, there was bedlam around the country. Not only had the Three Lions made a final - they were now winning it. On home soil, too.

But something happened to England that night. Players fell into the shadows, instead of rising to the occasion.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all criticised for missing penalties in the shootout but the truth is the damage had been done long before then.

England had been ahead but shrunk in the face of glory. Even now, three years on, it hurts.

Penalties have long been the nadir of the Three Lions. 20 years ago, it was the same old story.

England were the best team at Euro 2004, with Wayne Rooney particularly impressive. That was just the start of his road to becoming a football icon, with the forward dazzling with four goals from as many games.

He went off injured against Portugal in the quarter-finals of the tournament, with England's hopes of glory going with him.

Rooney was the poster boy of England's so-called golden generation.

As well as him, Sven-Goran Eriksson boasted world-class players in every department. Barring, perhaps, the goalkeeping one.

Everywhere you looked there was quality. Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen. The very definition of A-listers.

But that class would never scale the heights many expected. Their Euro 2004 exit was followed up by a crushing defeat to Portugal, again on penalties, at the World Cup two years later.

Looking back, members of those squads have spoken about why they failed to win a trophy.

Club rivalries, it seems, couldn't be put aside. How could Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard thrive together when they were such enemies at Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool respectively?

Fast-forward to now, however, and everything is different.

England, back then, could blame the rivalries. Not now, however, not with the harmonious camp Southgate has put together.

This England side is the complete package. Unlike Euro 2004, there isn't a single weakness.

In Jordan Pickford, they have a goalkeeper that has never failed Southgate. While divisive at Everton, his consistency on the international stage is extremely commendable.

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England failed to win anything with their so-called golden generation

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Defence is an area of intrigue. But, when it comes to the Serbia game, three of the back four pick themselves.

Kyle Walker, John Stones and Kieran Trippier are all veterans. Regardless of who partners Stones, it's a defence that has proven itself time and time again.

In midfield, England are spoilt. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Kobbie Mainoo, even Phil Foden if he plays as a No 10. No other country possesses such riches.

And when it comes to England's attacking options, the likes of Harry Kane and Cole Palmer, along with Jarrod Bowen and potentially Foden, have the talent and ability to put their names up in lights.

England, three years ago, suffered the most-agonising defeat.

England Euro 2024

England have the players to win Euro 2024 this summer

PA


But given the talent Southgate boasts, this simply has to be their year.

If it isn't, when will football ever come home?

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