By James Reid
It has been three years since the lives of all England fans peaked. As Kieran Trippier’s free kick rippled the net in Moscow, England fans dared to dream. Alas it was not to be as Mario Mandžukić broke English hearts.
It has been five since Wales’ incredible run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Though neither came home with any silverware, what was more important was that it reinvigorated a belief and a faith in international football.
International football is much maligned, even by a large amount of football fans themselves. That is, in many ways, understandable; there is often little to stir the senses about England rolling over the likes of San Marino.
But they are a necessary evil to qualify for the tournaments we all love. Moreover, while England fans often see qualifying as a mere procession, it is important to recognise how important such games are for smaller nations for whom qualifying is not a bare minimum.
Just look, for example, at the euphoric scenes as Scotland qualified for this summer’s European Championships – their first since 1998 – and argue that qualifying doesn’t matter.
And for the tournaments themselves, the exploits of home nations in recent years have reminded fans – England fans in particular – just how enjoyable they can be. For years, tournaments have often been met with trepidation and a sense of resignation to the seemingly inevitable valiant and heroic defeat that would ensue.
Yet 2018 showed us that it does not have to be that way. The valiant defeat was there again, but there was no sense of resignation or inevitability about it.
Nor was there the same negativity that so often shrouds the England team fans waiting to decry the team as boring. The runs to the semi-finals of Wales and England in consecutive tournaments was a refreshing reminder of just how good international tournaments can be.
Football nearly every day, often with the benefit of good summer weather, bringing a country together behind one cause. We have been forced to wait an extra year for another international tournament, meaning its return is even more welcome than before.
The reality, too, is that whether England, Wales, or Scotland win the tournament is not really that important. Of course, good results will create a much better experience, but the real value of international tournaments lie in them being festivals of football, creating iconic moments and moments of national jubilation.
Whether you like football or not, this summer’s Euros are simply too enticing not to get involved with.
Palatinate will be covering Euro 2020 throughout the tournament through online articles and our new podcast series, which has already previewed all of the groups.
Image: Scottish Government via Creative Commons