Now we are down to the last four and England are in their first semi-final since 1990. Could all these decades of hurt finally be coming to an end? We will find out one way or another. It won’t be easy as England will be up against a dangerous Croatia team who are looking to win the World Cup for the first time. The other semi-final will be an equally tight affair, when France play against Belgium.
Before we get to that, let’s take a look at some of the big moments from the quarter-finals.
Now let’s be frank, England aren’t easy on the eye. However, they are incredibly effective and play to their strengths. A key feature of the campaign has been their ability to take advantage of headers. Players like Maguire, Stones, Alli and of course ‘King Harry Kane’, are all strong and imposing in the air. This has given England an advantage in situations like corners and free kicks. A business can learn from this. England has shown that sometimes if you do one thing particularly well, it can take you to soaring heights. Sometimes it’s better to be a specialist than a ‘jack of all trades’.
Now nobody can say that Uruguay aren’t a team full of talented individuals. But the way they played at this World Cup was at best cynical, and at worst borderline dirty. This approach took them all the way to the quarter-final. But they didn’t have enough against a talented French team. Once they conceded the first goal, they found it difficult to play more openly and their limited tactics were nullified. If a business likes to indulge in the dark arts (however you interpret that), you’ll be found out and exposed eventually. Don’t be dirty, play by the rules, do what you do, do it well, and you will thrive.
The Brazil national team. There is something about that yellow shirt; the samba beats; the skills and the legends who have played over the years - Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and now Neymar. They are a huge stylish brand and are always favourites for every World Cup - almost by default. Think of them as the 'Apple' or 'Coke' of international football. But they have not come close to winning the tournament for over 15 years and there's a reason for this. Brazil are the ‘hype train’ and have really not produced a well balanced team for a long time. They famously got pummeled 7-1 by Germany 4 years ago in the semi final and were just eliminated by Belgium.
Back to England, because we’re all just a bit excited. It’s not just set pieces that have been helpful to the team. There seems to be a genuine sense of camaraderie around the camp. It’s a well known fact that previous tournaments have been affected by factors like boredom and a lack of team spirit - particularly due to the strong club rivalry that existed between the Liverpool and Man United players. Gareth Southgate has got the balance right in this team. The players appear to enjoy each others company and they are actually having fun in Russia. It all seems so different compared to previous World Cups, which were much more tense and pressurised affairs. Not this time. Whatever happens with England, the good will towards the national team has returned.
The importance of unity in any organisation is paramount. No business achieved anything without a great environment, good management and everyone pulling in the same direction. For the first time in a long time, England has that. If your business is going to achieve then it must have that as well.
We are now into the final week. It’s all getting so tense as excitement ramps up to extraordinary levels. Is it coming home or will we fall short? All will be clear soon. Read our other blogs for more interesting stories.