England prides itself as the original home for football, the game that we in America call soccer because, well, the word “football” was already taken. But since winning the World Cup in 1966 and collecting the iconic Jules Rimet trophy, England’s performance in major tournaments has been one disappointment after another, often in heartbreaking and even humiliating fashion.
In 1974, ‘78 and ‘94, the English side failed to even qualify for the World Cup. In 1996, with the European championship about to take place in England, an English pop music group released a single documenting those years of heartbreak, but also holding out hope for a reversal of fortune.
The song was titled the “Three Lions,” the nickname for the national team derived from the logo on its shirts, and it became a massive hit, reaching Number One on the charts.
“Everyone seems to know the score, they've seen it all before,
They just know, they're so sure
That England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away
But I know they can play, 'cause I remember ...
Three lions on a shirt / Jules Rimet still gleaming / Thirty years of hurt / never stopped me dreaming ...."
Well, it didn’t work. England lost that year in the championship game to Germany, on penalty kicks. The crucial moment came when a defender named Gareth Southgate saw his shot blocked.
When the World Cup rolled around two years later, a new version of “Three Kings” was released, updated with references to the ‘96 failure; it too topped the charts. That year, England lost to Argentina, again on penalty kicks.
In 2010, with English hopes high for the World Cup, yet another version was cut. England was humiliated by Germany 4-1.
Now here we are in 2018, 52 years still dreaming. “Three Kings” is echoing once again through English pubs, rivaling “God Save the Queen” as an anthem. And tomorrow at 10 a.m., England plays Sweden, with Southgate, the goat of ‘96, as its manager.
Sweden’s going to win. Sorry, Paul.