Without a club job to my name at the moment, my focus can be 100% on England and the World Cup 2030. We are defending champions and we are also playing the World Cup on home turf, so the nation expects.
We kick off a 3 team group against Ghana, a game we should be winning comfortably. With just 3 teams in the group, winning the first game is absolutely crucial. 36 minutes in and Marcus Rashford put us one nil up. A slender lead at half time but we were always in control. Sterling popped up in the 57th minute to ease any fears of a slip and Phil Foden made sure of the win in the 90th minute. 3 nil and on course to qualify for the second round.
Our 2nd group game saw us come up against the minnows UAE. We were favourites for a comfortable victory and that’s just what it was. 8 nil the final score with Marcus Rashford netting 4 times! An absolute mismatch of a tie but it gave us the chance to rotate and get fringe players game time and improve match sharpness. Onto the second round.
The second round was again comfortable. We will always be favourites against a team like Ecuador and we made sure this wasn’t a banana skin for us. From the first whistle we played on our terms and gave the Wembley crowd confidence that we could go all the way. Foden and Shulberg put us 2 nil up before half time and we were cruising. A defensive error from Joe Gomez allowed Vililalta to run through one on one and pull one back, but all fears were erased in the 80th minute when Phil Foden converted from 12 yards to send us into the Third Round.
The third round provided drama of the highest calibre. Norway boasted a spine of Ajer, Oodegard and Halaand. A very tough fixture. We got off to an absolute flyer when Rashford converted from the penalty spot on the 3rd minute. But just 8 minutes later Oodegaard equalised. Back to square 1. The game went back and forth until Mannsverk scored from a corner just 3 minutes before half time. Norway now had an undeserved lead but I had a big team talk ahead. As soon as we got the game restarted, Oodegard lunged in with 2 feet on Raheem Sterling and saw red. A rash decision that saw momentum completely swing in our favour. Now of course I was pleased one of their key players was no longer on the field but if one of my players had done the same thing I’d be absolutely seething. A ridiculous decision from him.
We huffed and we puffed all through the 2nd half. Mason Mount scored a great goal to put us on terms and in the ascendency. We created high quality chances over and over and over and over again but Hoyenhall had the greatest day of his putting in a blinder of a performance. I’ve never seen anything like it, saving from point blank range at least 4 times. It looked like it wouldn’t be our day, especially when Ben Chillwell had to go off injured at left back and just 10 minutes later his replacement, Luke Thomas, went off injured. We were now playing ten vs ten.
Into extra time we were able to bring on a ‘ghost sub’ and fill the void Luke Thomas left by bringing on Joe Gomez at left back. Again we created so many chances and we finally found the breakthrough with Nketiah finishing off from a wonderful Gomez cross. A huge sigh of relief could be heard throughout Wembley after the cheers. The final whistle blew and we had successfully battled our way to the Quarter Final. Up next, France….
Really into the business end of the competition now and the big boys were starting to go head to head. The upcoming tie against France felt like a pivotal moment for us in the competition. Get through this, we could well be lifting the World Cup at Wembley.
A tough first half, no goals to show but at the 30 minute mark France were really putting on the pressure and looked as if they could score at any moment. A demand more shout seemed to wake up my England boys and we had the better of the closing stages of the 1st half. A few corners with no success gives me the idea to change our set up slightly from corners for the second half and see if something works there.
The second half wasn’t as eventful but we had the better of it. As the clock ticked over into the 83rd minute we were gearing up for another Extra Time but we made the shift in momentum when Raheem Sterling tapped in from a low Ben Chillwell cross. Wembley absolutely erupted! The subs were off the bench to celebrate with their team mates. We were nearly there! We managed the game comfortably in the last 10 minutes and the referee blew his whistle. We’d done it! We’d toppled a star studded France side and we were into the Semi Finals against Portugal!
Portugal await in the semi final at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium after beating Belgium on penalties. With them going all the way through Extra Time, that could play to our advantage as we also played a day earlier.
A first half in which we have dominated proceedings, and on the 27th Phil Foden, who was having a great tournament, crossed from the by-line for Sterling to nod forward to Kane who tapped in from close range to score his 1st of the tournament and put us 1 nil up! As half time came we were more than happy and had been the better team.
3 minutes into the second half Ben Godfrey again missed his header from a ball out wide for Portugal to equalise. 5 minutes after the equaliser Foden was clear through on goal and couldn’t slot it past the goalkeeper. A huge chance to bring momentum back to us but we continued to fight. Portugal then stepped it up in the latter stages of the second half and were the better team. As we tried to wrestle back some momentum, Sterling was put through by Bellingham but hit the post on the 60th minute. We were knocking, but it wasn’t strong enough. The whistle blew for the end of 90 minutes and for the second time this World Cup we were into Extra Time. It felt tough on us as at the end of normal time, Sterling rattled home a header in the 94th minute which was disallowed. An xG of 3.5 to their 1.2 tells you what you need to know about this game. We kept our cards close to our chest and we still had 3 subs to come in extra time. We had much the better of play in extra time but couldn’t convert any of our chances. 120 minutes had ticked onto the clock and we were set to face a dreaded penalty shoot out to see who goes into the final of the World Cup And just like the Norway game we came up against a goalkeeper who saved the best performance of his career for tonight. 18 shots on target, save after save and Diogo Costa looked unbeatable. It will be very painful if we lose here on pens after domianating the tie.
Vieira 1st for Portugal. MISS!
Rashford 1st for us. Scores!
Trent Alexander Arnold. Scores!
Leite. MISS! ENGLAND ARE ON THE BRINK!
Devine…. SCORES!! WE ARE INTO THE FINAL OF THE 2030 WORLD CUP! AND AT WEMBLEY AS WELL! HISTORY AWAITS!
So here we go! the final of the World Cup against the Netherlands.
The atmosphere was something I’ve never experienced before. But it got to the lads as Holland were much the better side. We couldn’t find any sort of rhythm and we were made to pay when Malen flicked a curling effort into the back of the net. Advantage to the Netherlands and it looked bleak for us. The whole first half went the way of Holland but we were able to hang on and get into half time at 1 – 0. This was no where near good enough and wasn’t what we were about as a nation. We really needed to step it up, and step it up we did.
We absolutely dominated the second half and it looked a matter of when and not if we equalised. Harry Kane had dropped deep to collect the ball and threaded a lovely through ball for Bellingham to run onto but he blazed his effort over the bar. On the 70th minute TAA crossed from the by-line and Rashford met the ball at the back post but Justin Bijlow tipped behind. 2 huge chances missed. Holland were defending deep now and getting bodies behind the ball. It looked like it wouldn’t be our day. That was until 3 minutes from time Harry Kane flicked on a long throw on the edge of the box to Declan Rice who played a first time pass for Kane to then run onto and slot away into the far corner. A huge, huge equaliser which sent us into extra time!
Just 4 minutes into extra time Alfie Devine found himself unmarked at the back post and Luke Thomas picked him out with a wonderful curling cross. Devine couldn’t miss and we were now 2 – 1 up! We’d turned this final on it’s head and had one hand on the golden trophy! Just 5 minutes after Devine had given us the lead, he laid off a ball for Declan Rice to score a lovely, curling first time effort from the edge of the box. 3 – 1 England, Wembley was rocking and we looked like world champions the way we managed the rest of Extra Time. Holland didn’t threaten us after that and the final whistle blew! We’d done it! We’d turned it around late in the day and we were crowned World Champions! What a night!!
What a night! What an achievement. If any manager dips his toes into international management he or she will always want to win the World Cup. I have fulfilled a huge career ambition here. But as the dust settles, I don’t have a club job and that Champions League trophy is still calling my name…