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What an all-English final says about the state of the nation

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31.05.2019


There have never been more English players in a Champions League final since the old competition was reformatted to include group stages, non-domestic champions and dozens of adverts for Gazprom, than in 2008 when 10 took the field in Moscow.

And there have never been fewer in an international tournament this century than 2008, when zero Englishmen took the field over the course of three weeks at that year's European Championships, the golden generation's lost summer. The abiding memory from the aftermath of the 3-2 defeat by Croatia that sealed England's fate the previous November had been Slaven Bilic's observation about how badly underestimated his players had been. "I read somewhere that none of my players would get in the England team," he said. "Guys, wake up".

The season 2007-8 was a confusing year in that respect: two English teams in the final for the first time in the history of the Champions League, and a national team so dire that by August, a late equaliser against the Czech Republic at Wembley felt like a decent result. One key forgotten detail that gets lost along the way, obstructed in history's view by the Football Association brolly that stood as a motif for the day, was that Steve McClaren's team had terrible injury and availability problems for that fateful final qualifier. Indeed, only two of the 10 England internationals from Manchester United and Chelsea who started the Champions League........

© The Age