England’s 6-0 victory over Bulgaria last weekend will unfortunately be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The racist behaviour of the Bulgaria fans – or at least, large sections of Bulgaria fans – was abominable, and it has seen calls for stricter action from UEFA on the matter. One of the saddest facts was that we knew this would happen before the match; it was all too predictable.
Yet, while the focus will rightly go on the actions of despicable fans, it should also not be forgotten what a consummate performance these England players put on in front of such hostility. A 6-0 victory was the best way to respond to the thugs in the crowd. Sadly, the England manager was quick to point out that his players were able to deal with the racism because they are used to it at home. Southgate said:
“Sadly, because of their experiences in our own country, they are hardened to racism,” He then added “I don’t know what that says about our society but that’s the reality. It actually saddens me. So, they actually are in the dressing room smiling because they’ve played so well.”
England will go to Euro 2020
England’s win meant that they took control of the qualifying group, and they will surely clinch top spot and passage to Euro 2020 during the next international break. Yet, if we can look beyond the racism, there is another story emerging here; namely, a young English side that is becoming a major force in international football.
Indeed, those betting on football will have seen England begin to rise through the odds in recent months. They are now second-favourites to win Euro 2020, with odds of 9/2. World Cup winners France are favourites at 7/2, and Belgium come in third place at 7/1.
Do England deserve to be in such a lofty position? After all, they are priced at almost half the odds of Germany and Spain (both are available at 8/1 with 888sport). It’s difficult to argue the point with such a long-time until the tournament takes place next summer. However, followers of England can see the evolution of this team. It looks like they are not only capable of beating anyone in the world, but that they are also going to get better with time.
Southgate is perfect for the job
Looming above this England team is the steady hand of Southgate. The manager was not everyone’s first pick for the job, but he has won the hearts of the nation and the plaudits of his critics. Southgate tends to pick players on form, not precedence, and he is also a manager who experiments and then learns from his mistakes.
But, more than anything, there is a sense that the England players truly trust Southgate. That was evident in the match against Bulgaria – before and after. If those English players had walked off the pitch after being subject to racist abuse, Southgate would have backed them. Moreover, there was no towing the line to the English media about the racism the players face at home.
Nobody knows if this team can be good enough to end England’s long wait for major honours. But it is a team full of talent, and one that seems to have the right manager behind them. On a dark night in Bulgaria, this team of young men showed they have a lot of mettle under the most difficult of circumstances.