Euro 2024 comment: After all these years, all those heartaches, don’t England deserve a little slice of luck?

Flashback to October 1993 and David Platt is brought down by Ronald Koeman and, in a controversial decision, no penalty was given and Koeman only booked. Picture: Chris Cole/Getty Images.Flashback to October 1993 and David Platt is brought down by Ronald Koeman and, in a controversial decision, no penalty was given and Koeman only booked. Picture: Chris Cole/Getty Images.
Flashback to October 1993 and David Platt is brought down by Ronald Koeman and, in a controversial decision, no penalty was given and Koeman only booked. Picture: Chris Cole/Getty Images.
They have been a tough watch, to be sure. Not too much in the way of attacking football, struggling to score in all five of their games, the nation’s goalscoring superstar a peripheral figure at times, reliant upon the lottery of penalties to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2024.

But anyway, enough about France - isn’t it lovely to see England still in the tournament!

Am I surprised at that? Given the pre-tournament hype and expectation, no. Given the way we’ve played, yes. Are we lucky to still be in with a chance of ending 58 years of hurt? Possibly, but don’t we deserve a slice of luck? After all these years, all those heartaches, don’t we?

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Talking about penalty shoot-outs in the aftermath of the win against Switzerland on Saturday, Jude Bellingham said: “I have awful memories kind of growing up and I think the first Euro that I was really interested in was the one against Italy (Euro 2012) with the dink from (Andrea) Pirlo.

“It kind of stains your memory a little bit.”

With the greatest of respect to Jude, if that’s the extent of his penalty misery then he can count himself very lucky!

My memory is stained by Turin 1990, Wembley 1996, Saint Etienne 1998, Lisbon 2004 and Gelsenkirchen 2006, as well as Kyiv in 2012.

Six penalty shoot-out losses, and quite a few after we had been the better team over 120 minutes. Six games I sat through, at home or in the pub, where we didn’t get any luck, and football didn’t knock on the front door – ‘honey, I’m home!’

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And it’s not just penalties either. Remember Sol Campbell’s disallowed goal against Argentina in 1998? Where was our luck then?

Remember Frank Lampard’s shot that was well over the line against Germany in the 2010 World Cup? Where was our luck then?

Let’s go further back, to October 13 1993. To Feyernoord’s ground in Rotterdam, where a crucial World Cup qualifier between England and the Netherlands was goalless when Ronald Koeman brought down David Platt on the edge of his 18-yard box.

In those pre-VAR days, it could have been a penalty and a red card for Koeman. Instead, England were awarded a free-kick and Koeman was only booked. Shortly after, he scored Holland’s opening goal from a free-kick and Graham Taylor’s England managerial career was destined to forever be known as a disaster. Did we not like that, etc etc. Yet what IF? What IF Koeman had been shown a red card?

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Ok, it’s all ifs, buts and maybes and it was 31 years ago now. But football fans are like elephants, we don’t forget easily. Three decades on, I haven’t forgotten that night in Rotterdam. Where was our luck then?

Because football works in gloriously mysterious ways, on Wednesday we have a chance for some long-awaited revenge over Koeman.

Have England shown anything like the form needed to win the Euros so far? No, of course not. But that’s irrelevant, we’re still in it so we have a chance.

Remember Italy winning the 1982 World Cup? Paulo Rossi’s hat-trick in a wonderful game against Brazil, Marco Tardelli’s emotional celebration after scoring in the final against Germany. If you were a 13-year-old football mad kid like I was, you remember.

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You might not remember, though, that Italy didn’t win any of their three group games, drawing with Poland, Cameroon and Peru.

You probably remember Portugal winning the Euros eight years ago. But can you recall their three group games - all draws, against Hungary, Iceland and Austria.

England’s run to the semi-finals of Italia 90 is now enshrined in legend - Gazza’s tears and all that, the time when the nation started to embrace a sport that had been plagued by hooliganism and tragedy for too long.

But who remembers the group games against the Republic of Ireland (a poor 1-1 draw) and Egypt (a 1-0 win, but nothing to get excited about)? Yet we won our group then, as we have done in the current Euros.

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My point is this - it doesn’t matter how you get through your group, just get through your group. Not many nations win a World Cup or Euros waltzing through every game as if they were clones of Brazil 1970, scoring beautiful goals as if they were clones of Brazil 1982.

Sir Alf Ramsey’s boys of 1966 were known as the ‘wingless wonders’, not exactly a phrase for the footballing purist to get excited about. Yet, all these years on, who cares? They won the World Cup!

Gareth Southgate is a footballing pragmatist, that much is true. Like Sir Alf. And if we can exorcise a ghost from 31 years ago on Wednesday, we’re another step closer to him taking his place in English sporting folklore. Again, just like Sir Alf.

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