Home nations football is traditionally pretty shocking. But with the increased size of Euro 2016 many have a chance of qualification which they could previously only dream of, and it looks like the Home nations are now stepping up their game.
England are almost always guaranteed a spot at major tournaments and rarely fail, equally Ireland often make up the numbers at world cups and european championships, but Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland rarely ever make it. Wales have made only one appearance at a World Cup, Northern Ireland three, and Scotland though previously a fairly successful side have struggled since the early 90’s. These are countries who have frequently boasted very good players but cannot muster good performances on a team level. Until what i’m hoping a stupid amount is now as quite frankly i’m bored of the the England national team, and i want someone else to shout for. So this is how they’re doing.
With Wales’ win against Belgium there is now a very real chance of qualification to get to their first major tournament since 1958. Chris Coleman’s side now top their group by 3 points, and with some tricky games out of the way, and a game against Cyprus to come, the Welsh can finally be optimistic. This is not however a sudden rise, Wales have been slowly progressing for a while and i feel that had Gary Speed’s tragic death not occurred his side would have done very well long before now. This team has been playing together for a while with many of the players like Aaron Ramsey and Gareth bale already being seasoned internationals, even less heard of players such as Chris Gunter have 55 games of international experience. This is the reason for the sudden change in fortune of Wales, and it shouldn’t be put down to a ‘golden generation’. After all the previous Welsh side that competed in the early 00’s contained far more premier league experience and was littered with big names. The likes of Ryan Giggs, Robbie Savage, John Hartson and Daniel Gaddidon played in the Millenium stadium along with others like even Craig Bellamy. So those saying its because of Bale don’t know what their talking about. This team is doing well because its had time to gel, not because of a few good players. With some luck though, they are going to make it to France.
Wales aren’t the only team doing well either, the traditionally worst side in the British isles also have a chance of getting to their first ever European championship. Rarely having anything to shout about, Northern Ireland actually now stand more of a chance of reaching Euro 2016 than their southern neighbours in the Republic. Under the careful stewardship of Michael O’Neill and 5 goals from Kyle Lafferty, Northern Ireland FINALLY have a realistic shot at getting there. Kyle Lafferty somehow has scored in each victory, becoming the emblem of the new Northern Ireland in the process. Despite having scored just one club goal in turkey all season, a man not wanted by Palermo or Norwich Lafferty seems to become a different man when he gets going for his country, and with a game against the Faroe islands coming up in september they can get even closer to qualification. Though they will have to probably fight to the very end with Hungary just behind, its nice to finally be able to be positive about the national side of a country so devoted to football.
Next obviously, England. There is less to say to be honest about England given the fact they are expected to breeze through qualifying maybe even with a 100% record. They don’t tend to struggle in the early stages (cough cough 2008) and they should be fine this time round as well. With games against San marino and Lithuania still to play, they will almost definitely top their group and Wilshere’s two goals against Slovenia bode well for his future in the team, and as a group they seem to be doing really well. I think Hodgson is actually a really good coach and i think with the expanded tournament in 2016 they may stand more of a chance of getting further than previously, but i’d still deem making the semi’s a big success.
Scotland are an enigma, people almost unanimously say they are rubbish yet they always come really close to qualifying, like in 2008 when they beat Italy and France, or now with them being just 3 points behind Germany. But yet again it seems they probably wont get through with Poland doing well and Lewandowski leading the tournament goals tally, along with World cup winners Germany ahead of them in the group. One would hope they can grab third and get through in a play off, but its a free for all in the play offs and nothing is guaranteed, but then again that could work in their favour. Gordon Strachan has definitely got them improving though and having beaten Ireland and drawn with them in the second game, they will probably get 3rd.
Ireland are a good team normally, and frequently make major tournaments. Having irish family i tend to support them even ahead of England sometimes, but they haven’t done well and i don’t reckon they’ll get to France in 2016. Even Kevin Kilbane who won 110 caps with the Irish National side stated that he was pessimistic after the Scotland draw. Its quite a sad story for Ireland. Having arguably one of the best managers around in Martin O’Neill and an experienced back room team including the likes of Roy Keane has led to something of a disappointment as they have failed to stop something of a rot which set in after their dismal Euro 2012 performance. Having previously featured in the last Euro’s most had expected the Irish to make it again given there were 8 more slots than in 2012. However with an ageing side the Irish team seems to lack bite and the presence of (with respect) David McGoldrick in the team which played England shows the teams recent decline. Ireland have had to deal with the retirement of previous stars like Robbie Keane, Shay Given, Damien Duff and Richard Dunne in the past four years. Sadly it seems even a manager of O’Neill’s calibre hasn’t been able to halt the slide and the Irish seem to have declined quite sharply.
Overall though, the Home nation’s fortunes seem to be looking up.