In the aftermath of Euro 2016, it seemed clear the necessity for England to be driven along a fresh direction might have intensified, as whilst the nation is among the countries to boast a World Cup triumph, they seem to have performed superiorly in previous years. As such, the FA seemed to adhere to the fan’s desires, and whilst their original appointment, Sam Allardyce, attained the role for one fixture, he appeared to lay the foundations for potential future success. With Gareth Southgate now at the helm, and having already made key decisions, including altering his captain, this period may be vital for him to continue to hone his team’s credentials. With a multitude of English talent also plying their trade in the top tier, now may be amongst the final opportunities for Southgate to decide on his most proficient side prior to Russia.
Having already qualified for the World Cup, England seemed to be offered an opportunity to ply their trade versus a smorgasbord of the most proficient sides in world football in friendlies. The first two opponents are Germany and Brazil and, with these sides the two most decorated in history, it may provide an insight into how England may perform at the World Cup, as emerging victorious versus these nations may be pivotal in confirming their quest to the latter stages. Yet, it may more poignantly showcase the vast capabilities of the squad, as while the other home nations are currently involved in fixtures to obtain a position at the tournament, England, having already qualified, have been offered opportunities to enhance their credentials further.
England’s opening friendly encounter with Germany seemed pinpointed as key in both advancing Southgate’s tenure and ensuring his side’s success. Most notably, this appeared due to the history between the two nations, as with victories shared between the two, and England’s solitary World Cup triumph occurring versus their rivals, motivation for both sets of players to perform seemed to be reemphasised. Whilst it did result in a 0-0 draw, there seemed to be many productive conclusions from the tie, and while attaining a credible result versus the current world champions may claim the plaudits, the overall performance seemed worthier of the focus. This may have been the primary reasoning behind why the result seemed to captivate the nation, potentially drawing attention back to the beneficial aspects of the international period.
The most significant focal point of the fixture seemed to be the performance of the young players, perhaps important in producing a consistent core to the side for the future. This successful integration, alongside the emerging capabilities of Eric Dier as captain, may suggest the strength in- depth of the nation. Whilst these youngsters, most notably Ruben Loftus-Cheek, noted as man of the match, seemed to thrive in the challenging circumstances, they may have been afforded this opportunity due to the vast array of players who were absent. Whilst this naturally showcases both the physical and mental capabilities of these players, as they were able to perform, and impress, on short notice, it may also suggest there might be more to come, and further improvements made, as perhaps some of England’s most accomplished players may soon return.
With the multitude of political debates currently occurring in Britain, creating a successful England team may unite the nation, and with both the U17 and U20 sides already boasting the status of world champions, the senior team may be striving to replicate this success. As such, there may be increased pressure on these players to achieve, as their replacements may have proven they might be ready to play at the pinnacle. This may be beneficial for England, providing a vast pool to choose from and, with the accessibility highlighted, a fresh influx of players may be motivated to claim a position in the squad. With England’s rivals Brazil boasting a front three of Neymar, Jesus and Coutinho, prioritising young players may have been utilised by other nations, and thus England may be increasingly motivated to continue to follow this format.
How may these fixtures highlight the importance of international match-ups?