England, Croatia vie for World Cup championship match spot today
MOSCOW — Gareth Southgate and England are ready to face the music.
No other soccer nation dwells on decades of failure quite like the English. Southgate was so demoralized by his penalty kick failure against Germany in the 1996 European Championship semifinals, he avoided The Lightning Seeds “Three Lions,” the team’s official song when it hosted the tournament.
Now the song, with its repeated chorus of “football’s coming home,” is a staple again, No. 5 this week on YouTube UK’s top music videos chart with more than 2 million views on the day of England’s last match.
“‘Football’s coming home’ is a song I couldn’t even listen to for 20 years, frankly, so for me it has a slightly different feel,” Southgate said Tuesday on the eve of England’s World Cup semifinal match against Croatia. “But it’s nice to hear people enjoying it again.”
When the song first was released, the chorus proclaimed “Three lions on a shirt/Jules Rimet still gleaming/Thirty years of hurt/never stopped me dreaming.” A 1998 update changed the third verse to “no more years of hurt.”
England hasn’t played in the semifinals of a major tournament since Southgate’s penalty kick at Wembley was saved by Andreas Koepke 22 years ago, and Andrea Moeller put the next kick over David Seaman and under the crossbar. The most-cherished national team memory remains the 1966 World Cup final victory at Wembley over West Germany, a demarcation point in the island’s history as much as 1066 (the Norman invasion) and 1707 (union with Scotland).
England and Croatia are teams that innovated over time but have generally been immutable during the World Cup, sticking to virtually identical starting lineups except for group phase finales, after advancement was secure.