Over 30 million of us watched the football last night as Gareth Southgate’s England team took us on a national rollercoaster of emotions to an inevitable penalty shootout and an equally inevitable England defeat.

And while I realise this is the article version of someone coming up to you in the street and chirpily shouting ‘Cheer up, luv, it might never ‘appen’, there are silver linings. So rather than wallowing in the gloom of a missed opportunity, let’s sieze that Eric Idle spirit and instead look on the bright side…

We’re well set up for the World Cup

Gareth Southgate indicated this morning that, as it stands, he wants to lead the England team on their trip to Qatar next year.

The England manager, our most successful in decades and widely admired, has brought England its greatest footballing success since 1966 and his disciplined and effective team has been suitably ‘bloodied’ in advance of the real fight, winning the World Cup.

At risk of jinxing it, surely missing the Euros title by a hair’s breadth will make them even more hungry for the biggest trophy in football. Pack your sunnies, we’re off to the Middle East…

At least it wasn’t Germany

The way the runes fell meant that an England versus Germany final wasn’t possible this time round, but the national team did manage to expelliarmus the spell cast on us since our 1966 World Cup victory and actually defeat the Germans.

The tradition of being knocked out of international tournaments by Germany finally ended with England’s two, nil win.

Imagine the damage to the national pyche if it had been our old foes…

No more listening to Three Lions on loop

I get it, it’s a bloody good song. If they ever decide to get rid of God Save The Queen then it’ll be a shoe-in as the replacement, but The Lightning Seeds and Baddiel & Skinner’s Euro ’96 anthem has been stuck in my skull for at least the last fortnight.

Perfectly summing up the nation’s character with its blind hope in the face of overwhelmingly long odds, the song is sung from the terraces, played in boozers and has shot up the charts as it does for every football competition.

It, and David Baddiel and Frank Skinner’s royalty cheques, now get a welcome hiatus until next year…

Southgate’s England team are the nicest ever!

England’s fans reacted to their team’s defeat in the time honoured fashion of trashing everything, hideous racism and being generally sore losers. If you ever need a reminder of everything that’s unpleasant about our country look to football fans. But, thankfully, not football players.

Southgate’s team seem universally lovely, which is a both a surprise and a welcome antidote. Along with the social conscience of taking the knee before matches to highlight racial inequality, Marcus Rashford’s actual hobby is providing school meals to disadvantaged children.

Humble, articulate and with good politics, the team represented us finely.

We forgot about Covid, albeit briefly

Seeing a packed Wembley Stadium, without a single mask on display, it was possible to forget for just a few hours the last eighteen months we’ve endured and the ongoing health crisis that coronavirus presents.

Today the government gets ready to announce further lifting of restrictions, no doubt reigniting national debates around timings and nearly dividing workplaces, friendship groups and the nation into two camps. But with the exception of over 100,000 empty seats around the nation’s TV sets, that was all briefly forgotten.

We got to know Gareth Southgate

If there’s one man who knows exactly how his last minute subs and penalty missers feel this morning then it’s Gareth Southgate.

The England manager famously made himself the least popular man in the country by missing the famous penalty that saw England knocked out of Euro ’96. But 25 years on it seems to have made him a far better, more humble and, frankly, likeable character than anyone else on that team or, possibly, in football.

Taking the top job after leading the England women’s team to great things, we’ve come to know three-piece-suit wearing Southgate anew, and he’s proved himself worthy of the knighthood no doubt heading his way this year or next…

And we all agreed that Prince George is kind of adorable…

Even the most ardent royalist would have to admit that Prince George was seriously sweet.

The future king (who for some reason wasn’t accompanied by his sister) was a fan favourite as he celebrated England’s goal along with his father and mother.

His glum expression when England was finally pipped to the trophy by Italy also summed up the national mood.

God save the next king-but-two…


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