Ever since last summer’s World Cup, it’s been good times and a great run of results (seven wins and now draws or defeats) for the England national team.
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Sure, a lot of that can be put down to the level of competition the Three Lions have faced — Norway, San Marino, Estonia and Lithuania, among others — since bombing out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but if you ask England captain and soon-to-be all-time leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney, he’ll tell you it’s got just as much to do with the team’s approach and attitude as anything.
Rooney, speaking ahead of Tuesday’s friendly date with Italy, from the Guardian:
“You don’t want to go into games and think teams enjoy playing against you. You want teams to look at England and think: ‘We know we have a tough game. It is going to be physically hard against them, we are going to have to defend and we are going to have to be good on the ball to keep it.’ That is what we want teams to feel when they come up against us.
“Certainly, since the World Cup we have done that. At the minute we have the tactics right and it’s moving in a good direction. We have learned with every game since the World Cup and are getting better, and there is an excitement back about England.”
As an outsider who finds the England national team a fascinating bunch — their over-the-top media coverage and fan support, mixed with an underrated and yet still underachieving group of players…who could not be entertained by that? — I think Rooney is spot on.
Yes, half the games they’ve played since the World Cup have been against the so-called “minnows” of Europe — England are currently top of Group E in EURO 2016 qualifying, a perfect 15-for-15 points thus far — but only their 1-0 away victory over Estonia has been anything less than a two-goal victory.
Even more encouraging than the results or the way they’re getting them, is the wealth of talent from which Roy Hodgson gets to pick his teams these days. Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck and now Harry Kane — that’s an embarrassment of riches to fill the three or four attacking positions.
England don’t have a midfield capable of pinging the ball around the field, taking the air out of games through prolonged periods of possession and creating the amount of chances befitting their impressive attacking corps. So, finally Roy Hodgson has put the game in the hands of his game-changers — a group of players the U.S. national team could only dream to possess — and they’re winning game after game because of it.
England aren’t going to win the World Cup with this current squad — or the EUROs — but they’re a long way away from embarrassing themselves at another major tournament the way they did last summer.