As I write this, my Ancestral Homeland's football team are up 1-0 over Croatia in the World Cup semifinals. This wasn't supposed to happen:
Since 2006, England’s performance on the world stage has been lamentable, a comedy of errors marked by group-stage evictions, racism scandals, and grifters. In 2016, after the abrupt departures of two successive managers, the former England player and manager of its feeder under-21 team Gareth Southgate was given temporary charge of the national team, a decision that seemed safe, if uninspired. Expectations for Russia 2018 were muted, to say the least. “Before the tournament started, I could not make a case for us winning it,” the former England captain Alan Shearer wrote, Eeyore-ishly, in a column for the BBC. “I just wanted to see some signs of improvement.”
What happened instead has been a surprisingly smooth path to Wednesday night’s semifinal against Croatia, as a youthful and undaunted England side swept away a nation’s pessimism. Southgate’s great accomplishment—aside from the manager’s natty collection of waistcoats—has been getting the squad to envision itself as a team, as opposed to a collection of surly prima donnas who’d rather be spending their summers on Roman Abramovich’s yacht. England has one of the youngest and most inexperienced squads of all the teams competing in Russia, with an average age of 26.
As England heads toward its Wednesday-night match with Croatia, the anticipation of a potential victory (and a spot in the finals for the first time in 52 years) offers some welcome relief from the turbulence surrounding Theresa May’s government and the ongoing gloom of Brexit. (Almost as perturbing as the England team’s current run of success is the fact that Sunday marked England’s 50th straight day of sunshine.) Waistcoat sales are cresting. Motorways and shopping malls are being abandoned. Even Southgate is daring to dream. “How far can we go?” he told The Guardian.“Let’s push the boundaries, let’s create our own history.”
We've got the match on in the office. Updates as conditions warrant.