Looking back on England’s 2018/2019 Nation League campaign

One year after England’s World Cup semi-final heartbreak in Russia, England were daring to dream again in the inaugural UEFA Nations League. A brand new European international tournament where Gareth Southgate and England had a chance to write the wrongs of the 2018 World Cup.

We look back on England’s 2018/19 Nations League campaign that ended in disappointment for Gareth Southgate’s side.

In a brand new concept, England were seeded in League A, and were drawn in a group with Spain and Croatia. Each country would play each other twice and only the team who finished first would qualify for the semi-finals, which took place in Porto in June 2019.

England started their campaign hosting Spain at Wembley, their first game since their semi-final defeat to Croatia in the summer. Despite leading, England lost 2-1 and it was already looking like an uphill task to qualify out the group after a 0-0 draw away to Croatia just over a month later. Spain were top and cruising after demolishing Croatia 6-0.

Days after a drab goalless draw in Rijeka, England travelled to Seville knowing a defeat would end their chances of qualification. But England produced one of their most stunning performances under Southgate. A brace from Raheem Sterling and a goal from Marcus Rashford meant England raced into an extraordinary 3-0 lead inside the first half. It was not quite dreamland but it was seldom a situation the Three Lions would find themselves in. Spain pulled two goals back in the second half but England held on for victory.

In November, Croatia shocked Spain by winning 3-2 in Zagreb thanks to a last minute winner. It meant it was winner takes all at Wembley as England hosted Croatia. A draw would see Spain progress. It was a nervy affair in London and England found themselves behind in the second half after Andrej Kramaric put the visitors in front. England had work to do, but turned the game around thanks to goals from Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane. England had won the group and had were off to Porto in the summer to face Netherlands in the semi-final.

For the second time in less than a year, England found themselves 1-0 up in a semi-final, after Rashford converted a penalty for Southgate’s side. Netherlands equalised in the second half and there was a feeling of de ja vu for England. It was with just seven minutes to go, Lingard ran free and scored what looked to be a winning goal, however after a lengthy VAR check he was deemed offside in what was a very tight call.

Like the World Cup semi-final, the game entered into extra-time and mistakes from John Stones and Ross Barkley cost England a place in the final. Netherlands ran out 3-1 winners and that familiar feeling surfaced again for Southgate.

England won the third place play-off on penalties against Switzerland but it was merely a consolation in what was another chance of a trophy gone for England.

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