England out of the World Cup, but the sun still shines

Hope grew on this country like a tumour, and for all the goodwill of a desperate nation, it didn’t come home.

In the end, we’re all just grateful that it wasn’t a loss on penalties.

In the words of the brilliant Peter Jones: the sun shines now.

For the extra-time defeat to Croatia, my girlfriend and I inadvertently found ourselves in a London pub surrounded by a bunch snarky, hipster students.

It was a crowd which had no idea that Three Lions had two separate outings in both 1996 and 1998. They weren’t even born yet.

Football, like fashion, runs a cyclical path. The crowd brimmed with baggy jeans, ironic caps, too much hair gel and fluorescent Le Coq Sportif polo shirts. And that was just the girls. So it goes.

The boys squealed for when football, for all its wonderful HD quality viewing, was better in their father’s era when a World Cup was remembered almost exclusively for one missed header by Kevin Keegan. This isn’t verbatim, but you cut my drift.

Early into the match one young lad in the crowd shouted, “Get it in the goal hole!” I asked him where he was from. Wales, but he wanted England to win. It was all starting to make sense now, and it was enough to wish us out of a World Cup on pure spite.

Everyone knows how the game panned out. England’s first half brought with it the best chance in a human lifetime of making it into a World Cup final. And for all your sugary sentiment, we blew it.

Yet it’s almost impossible to play the blame game on Gareth Southgate’s brilliant coaching staff and a wonderful set of young players.

With seconds left of extra time, a young student shouted “Fuck you, Alli! You’re shit!”

It was the sort of comment which could only come from an Arsenal fan burdened by an unsure future after they’d successfully yet reluctantly hounded out their bespectacled godfather.

Meanwhile, those in the crowd old enough to remember had the dying embers of ‘Nessun Dorma’ tickling in their ears. It was almost impossible to shake the sight of Gazza crying when Kieran Trippier was carried off late into the match.

Try not to politicise this loss though. Despite the convenient timing of a cabinet implosion, dare not to remember this time in tandem with a disenfranchised Tory government. Christ, there’s too many to form any sort of meaningful correlation anyway.

Football is far more significant, and obviously far more insignificant, than politics.

Just remember a tournament where, if only for a few minutes in the skull of almost every man and woman in England, hope became expectation. And it wasn’t unfounded.

With the heatwave and one of the most controversial World Cups in recent memory came the curtains on a redemptive, fist-pumping summer in the life of a waistcoat-wearing, spot-kick anti-hero.

Glorious failure. It’s what we do best.

After all, it’s human nature to turn the volume up on a heartbreaking song rather than to put your foot through the speaker.

And the sun shines now.

 

Chris Henderson

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