Yesterday, England Under 21s won their seventh consecutive match. Even more impressive is the fact that it was also a record breaking seventh clean sheet in a row. The side breezed through the qualification for this summer’s European Championships, winning seven of their eight matches including tough wins against Belgium and a hostile away trip to Azerbaijan. So why has it not been the same comfortable process for the senior squad?
Last night’s 4-0 victory over Sweden was the definition of comfortable for the Three Lions second highest age group. In control from the first whistle, the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Tom Ince flourished in front of the ESPN camera with the latter grabbing his first goals for the side. Connor Wickham and Jonjo Shelvey also made the score sheet. Jordan Henderson, captain for the night looked reminiscent of his teammate Steven Gerrard, stroking the ball across the pitch and splitting open the Swedish defence.
This was a performance of complete opposite compared to Roy Hodgson’s team who crashed to a 4-2 defeat to the Scandinavian’s senior group. Of course this team included an in-form Zlatan Ibrahimovic but he is the shining light from a rather modest line-up.
Therefore the difference may not be the quality of players but other external factors. The weight of expectation has forever been a burden on the shoulders of Gerrard and co. and it could well be affecting the players. A country’s desperation for success could well be self-destroying by the way that it is preventing from happening what is truly wanted – major competition success. The constant bombardment from the media must surely have an effect on the players.
England’s last seven games have not been seven wins; it has been just three victories. Two of these triumphs have also come against some of Europe’s whipping boys in San Marino and Moldova. And so the Under 21s have therefore had more success in recent times? Well two European Championship wins in 1982 and 1984 would at least tick this box for silverware.
This summer, and from now on, if you would like to avoid disappointment on the national stage then the smart option would be to take a keen interest in Stuart Pearce’s men. A much higher chance of success and a lesser chance of games being rained off means that being an England fan can once again be enjoyable.