England need to bring the Liverpool and Tottenham stars back to salvage the summer


We were still stuck in the Stones age.

So on Sunday, the Three Lions must go out and show we are still on the path to enlightenment by claiming that third-place medal and entering the bronze age for real.

Winning the Nations League was always going to be hard, but it was almost as if England’s fate was sealed on two of the most amazing nights of the season six weeks ago.

First Liverpool came back against Barcelona in 90 minutes at Anfield; then Spurs managed the same three-goal turnaround in half that time in the Johan Cruyff Arena.

What an advert for English football! And what an excuse for another semi-final disappointment by the national team.

Coming back off the back of a draining Champions League final in Madrid five days earlier was always going to be a big ask, but Virgil Van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum managed it to tremendous effect for Holland.

None of the English participants were trusted with a starting place on Thursday night.

In fairness, Jordan Henderson’s hamstrings might not have been up to it and it would be hard to argue that Harry Kane would have been sharp enough to finagle the penalty Marcus Rashford won to give England their opening goal.

But Danny Rose’s more nuanced understanding of the game at left-back might have made a difference. On the opposite flank, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s effervescence might have held the flow of orange shirts back a little more.

Eric Dier, for all that he has been a peripheral figure for Tottenham this season, should surely be more sensible stand-in than 29-year-old Fabian Delph who has played just 10 minutes of Premier League football since Boxing Day?

And while Dele Alli may have lost his form, his goal-scoring knack and arguably his direction in general, the 23-year-old’s athleticism remains unquestioned and his presence chasing down the ball might have made this a little bit less of a stroll for Frenkie De Jong and the other Dutch midfielders.

Instead of a final, all we are left with is a damp squib of a third-place play-off in Guimaraes against Switzerland as a pre-cursor to the Porto showpiece.

“There’s only really pride to play for,” runs the cliché. So let’s show the world that we have some.

England have lost the last six games they have played in men’s international competition beyond the quarter-final stage – four semi-finals and two third/fourth place play-offs.

Joe Gomez, the other member of the Champions League final squads, should come in for Stones.

And let’s also see those other players who battled in Madrid – while Europe watched on in envy – return to the spotlight.


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