Oh no, is it time already? Is it England At A Major International Tournament Time so soon? It seems like only yesterday that we watched, stultified by a mixture of fatigue and apathy, as England walked around the pitch for 90 minutes, having already been eliminated from the 2014 World Cup, and nearly – so nearly – scored a consolation goal against Costa Rica. But even that was not to be, and Our Brave Boys departed Brazil with a solitary point from that 0-0 draw, having already lost to under-par Italy and one-man-team Uruguay. It was the most disappointing World Cup in living memory, at least from an English point of view. Indeed it was a strange tournament overall, with Brazil getting suspiciously far on home turf, until they were memorably thrashed by tournament specialists and eventual winners Germany. Also Colombia’s James Rodriguez scored one of the best goals you will ever see before being attacked by one of the aliens from Starship Troopers.
Since then, there has been cause for cautious optimism, with England jettisoning many of their old war-horses in favour of a dynamic and fresh-faced squad built around two of this season’s top Premiership teams, Leicester and Spurs. England consequently won all of their Euro 2016 qualifying games with relative ease. Roy Hodgson, a shrewd, personable and intelligent manager, has also added teen sensation Marcus Rashford and Jack ‘Glass Legs’ Wilshere to his potent attacking mix – both are gambles at this stage, but it is nonetheless a statement of intent. Some pundits are calling this the best England squad they have seen for a long time. Should we be confident? We should. However, I can’t help feeling we’ll blow it yet again…
As you’ll no doubt be thoroughly sick of hearing, it is 50 years since England last won a major tournament. So it may be worth jogging the old memory bank before we start what could be a nervy set of group games against Russia, Wales and Slovakia with a copy of 1966 (Vision Sports Publishing, £30) – you know, so we can remind ourselves what England players holding a trophy looks like. The only officially endorsed anniversary book to be released this year, 1966 is presented in a beautiful slipcase and contains key reflections from players and supporters – complete with a foreword from Sir Geoff Hurst.
On the other side of the world, an arguably more interesting tournament is taking place: the Copa America, which involves 16 teams from across the Americas and the Caribbean. Watching closely, somewhere, will be Juan Villoro, the author of God Is Round (Restless Books, £12.99), who will be keeping an eye on his beloved Mexico. Perennial underdogs, the Mexicans actually came out fighting in their impressive opening group game against a Suarez-less Uruguay with a 3-1 win. Villoro says “being a Mexico supporter, I’ve always known that one’s passion for the game has little to do with winning all the time.” That notion may be about to change.
And if you’re already looking ahead to the next club season (and after the last one, why wouldn’t you be?), deCoubertin bring two of their biggest books from last year into paperback, both of which concern the unfortunately relegated Newcastle United. Touching Distance (deCoubertin, £8.99) revisits the almost-glory years of the Keegan era, while Up There (deCoubertin, £8.99) examines North-East football on a wider scale. Sunderland and Middlesbrough fans: prepare to gloat.
But for now, let’s all “enjoy” a tournament featuring four of the five home nations (soz, Scotland). Then let’s reconvene in a couple of years’ time for the World Cup – by which Hodgson might have a better idea of where to play Wayne Rooney.
Post by Tom
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