There has been different ways to measure how far England have come in the past few years, and how the demeanour and expectations towards the national team has changed. There’s the fact that there is a team the nation likes, and the fact that competition semi-finals now feel like a given. But another yardstick to use might be upcoming opponents Hungary, and how things looked different when they met over a decade ago.
England v Hungary off the Back of the 2010 World Cup
A Contrasting Affair
August 2010 is quite a long time ago. Roy Hodgson was Liverpool’s new manager. Mikel Arteta was Everton’s vice-captain, and Phil Foden was nine. Unlike September 2021, England playing Hungary would be happening as a friendly in Wembley and not a qualifier in Budapest. But that’s not the only thing that marks how different both meetings are.
England went into the World Cup in 2010 in high spirits. The qualifying campaign had made for the angst of failing to get to the Euros in 2008. Under experienced manager Fabio Capello, they looked the business. They had forwards in form – Wayne Rooney had terrified European defences and started to master the art of heading – so much so that they could afford to drop red-hot strikers like Darren Bent and Bobby Zamora for the tournament and it hardly caused a stir.
England were being talked up alongside Brazil and Spain as favourites to win the World Cup. Then came their first group game against the USA, in which The Three Lions took a four-minute lead via skipper Steven Gerrard. But perhaps what came next should have been seen as pre-cursor for what was to come. England’s celebrations, on television, was tempered by ITV footage, and it went downhill from there. A Rob Green mistake later, and they shared the spoils with the USA, and followed that up with a tepid draw against Algeria.
Suddenly, England went from World Cup big shots to being on the cusp of ignominious elimination. The early elimination may have been prevented by a Jermain Defoe goal against Slovenia, but the ignominy would still happen. England met Germany in the Last 16, and in a game also notable for that Frank Lampard effort that didn’t count, the Three Lions were battered and bruised on their way out of the World Cup.
Steven Gerrard Helps Pay Reparations
So, when England met Hungary at Wembley, the atmosphere was different. England and Capello had a responsibility to make the supporters care again. But for much of the game, they looked tepid. Worst of all, they looked restrained. The hesitancy among the players was evident. This was a side that was feeling the pressure.
Every chance ended up with a weak shot, a frightened pass, or an over-compensatory cross. And Michael Dawson, on his England debut, made an error that led to an own goal, trouble spelled. But England would respond to the challenge, from captain Steven Gerrard. First, a belting shot into the corner had the crowd roaring, then a finish of skill and smartness had the crowd applauding. England turned it around, and made the fans leave feeling a touch upbeat.
Different England Go to Budapest With Different Mind
Things didn’t go smoothly for the Three Lions. England’s development in the past decade is proof that progress isn’t linear. Fabio Capello resigned, Harry Redknapp didn’t turn out to be the one, Roy Hodgson spearheaded two tame exits, and Sam Allardyce had lunch. All that, and some player debacle in between.
But England are in a much better stead since. They’ve followed a semi-final defeat at the 2018 World Cup with a final defeat on penalties to Italy at the Euros. And despite the predictably gory scenes after Bukayo Saka’s miss back in July, the atmosphere around the national team is different. Over the past few years, under Gareth Southgate, England have paid reparations, and belief is no longer a fanciful term.
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