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When the Three Lions lost their pride

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As if their UEFA Nations League campaign couldn’t get any worse, the pride of the Three Lions was completely absent it seems, excusing the obvious pun, when the team coached by Gareth Southgate was utterly demolished by Hungary.

This now raises concerned questions about how England might fare at the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The month of June has been little more than disastrous. Four games into their UEFA Nations League campaign, England has failed to win a single encounter. To stand even the slightest hope of remaining in the top tier League A section, they must win the remaining two games against Germany and Italy in September, both of which are away from home. Anything less, the Three Lions will be demoted to the second tier League B of the competition.

Taking absolutely nothing away from the Hungarian performance, given they looked far more organised and precise, England were shambolic and seemingly devoid of ideas by comparison. But just to underline the damage done by their 0-4 home defeat against Hungary, this was the worst defeat for England since 1928, when the Three Lions were mauled 5-1 by Scotland.

Interestingly, no sooner had the final whistle blown at the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, the host venue for this particular debacle, oddsmakers were scrambling to make swift adjustments to England’s odds for the upcoming World Cup. Although that may be an entirely different competition, this recent run of worrying form has now cast serious doubts about England’s chances in Qatar, having initially been tipped as one of the favourites.

For many punters who remain keen to back England at the World Cup, this could actually come as a boon, due to lengthening odds potentially adding extra value. Finding the top betting sites in any category is always important, which is just one of many focal points in the latest SBO guide, alongside providing insight and advice via honest and unbiased site reviews. Comparing odds at UK bookmakers now looks to be sound advice.

Those who review previous England national team history may already be aware, Southgate statistically ranks as the most successful manager since the days of Sir Alf Ramsey, who led his iconic team to victory in the 1966 World Cup. However, this current run of poor form is also England’s worst since 2014 with Roy Hodgson at the helm, eliminated from the World Cup in Brazil after failing to win any of their group stage games.

Fans at the Molineux Stadium didn’t hesitate to share their dissatisfaction, as the game against Hungary unfolded. “You don’t know what you’re doing” was the cry from the stands, accompanied by boos and angry whistles throughout the second half. Just to underline the dreadful nature of England’s performance, they were beaten by a Hungary side that had failed to qualify for the World Cup, who also rated 40th in the latest FIFA World Ranking list.

One of the biggest worries for England is the recent run of results has come in competitive fixtures. Their campaign in the UEFA Nations League had already begun badly, losing the first League A Group 3 encounter 1-0 in Hungary, followed by scraping a 1-1 draw in Germany thanks to a late penalty. Drawing 0-0 at home against Italy did little to raise spirits, before the ultimate 0-4 home humiliation against Hungary.

Southgate admits he did not find the right balance for players, which is one of the more concerning confessions to emerge from his post-match comments, highlighted by The Guardian. “The responsibility lies with me. It was very difficult to put the strongest team out in every game, so we used it to prepare for Qatar. But of course a night like tonight is very difficult and it’s important to take that off their shoulders because it’s totally down to me.”

Despite such an earnest willingness from Southgate to take the blame, such results coming when England had such high expectations for the World Cup raise doubts about his tenure. If the manager still isn’t clear about player selections or tactics, it hardly bodes well for their chances of competing successfully in Qatar. On the other hand, these results and the thumping by Hungary could also have the opposite effect.

Every time an England team prepares to compete at the finals of an international tournament, be it the European Championships or the World Cup, the national press is often guilty of too much hype and overinflated expectations. Wounded pride could actually serve to bolster the Three Lions, as the players and their manager seek to regroup, eager to bounce back positively. Only time will tell if Southgate can find the winning formula again.

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