It has been 25 years since the Lightning Seeds sang about England’s “30 Years Injury”, but now, with the thorn in the side of the Three Lions the pain that was finally removed with Tuesday’s 2-0 victory in Germany, fans can really start dreaming.
This song, the anthem of Euro96, was thrown back in the faces of England when happy German fans sang “Football’s home home” after beating the hosts on penalties in the semifinals.
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This was one of the many tearful tournament outings in the hands of Germany. It started with the defeat of extra time in the quarter-finals of the 1970 World Cup, when the English team took a 2-0 lead and reached its climax with the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup on penalties.
Euro96, when current England manager Gareth Southgate missed the decisive penalty, continued to run and the German league lead at home from their 4-1 victory in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup.
As the years of injury passed the half-century mark, Southgate worked overtime to clear his team’s mind of the baggage that seemed to weigh so heavily on every previous generation, especially the “gold” of David Beckham, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
One of the first obstacles was cleared when England finished a terrible penalty, beating Colombia in the 2018 World Cup, but the ultimate test was set before them on Tuesday – Germany.
On paper, England had nothing to fear. They had the advantage at home with most of the 40,000 Wembley crowd leading them.
As England reached the World Cup semi-finals three years ago, Germany entered the team stage.
While England advanced smoothly to the group stage of this tournament, conceding no goals, Germany were beaten by France and almost succeeded in the knockout stage with a draw against Hungary.
Many of England’s players regularly played against their German counterparts for their clubs, and were often beaten.
There should be no fear, but this was still Germany, the team that finds a way into the tournaments and, apart from a group stage in 2000 when both teams failed to advance, the team that always beat England.
Not anymore. The late goals of Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane were a fair reward for England, who were not exaggerating and who fully realized that the men in black were simply mortal.
“It’s history, all the players were asked about previous games, but we made history,” said midfielder Declan Rice.
“Today, the occasion, the fans, the players who were ready for it. The wardrobe, I was not a member of a team with this unit. We really believe in the Wembley tournament.”
There is the small issue of diverting to Rome for a quarter-final against Sweden or Ukraine on Saturday, and Southgate will spend every minute waking up eliminating any sign of complacency from his team.
There are many obstacles to be cleared, but the path opens for England to reach its first final since 1966 and finally, after 55 years, end the pain.