“They think it’s all over ... it is now.” The refrain that haunts England fans returned last night, not in a good way, as we crashed out of World Cup 2018 to Croatia.
Different agents have reviewed the England games for Estate Agent Today and we saved the biggest name for the biggest game - that semi-final performance is now put under the microscope by Russell Quirk, founder and chief executive of Emoov.
He naturally compares some of last evening’s game to what’s happening in our industry, so a few traditional agents should stand by for yellow cards.
Our thanks to Russell for his great contribution, and to the earlier agents and industry players who wrote for us during the tournament - Kristjan Byfield of base properrty specialists, Paul Morgan of Farrell Heyworth Estate Agents, Peter Gregg of Rowcliffes, Kae Travis of MoveSelf, and Paul James of Property Road.
Now over to you Russell...
Football’s not coming home, instead the England football team itself is, diverted via a Moscow departure lounge by 11 able Croatians.
Some might say that this a familiar tale. Anticipation. Hope. Even delusion. Every four years our nation believes, truly believes, that we can once again lift the World Cup as West Ham - sorry, England - did way back in 1966.
We have just come closer than at any tournament since Italia 90 but, alas, the Germany of 28 years ago was also our Croatia last night.
We threw it away as many of us feared that once again we would. Despite us enjoying a route to the last four that was of the utmost convenience to say the least.
Not since the words ‘Rightmove annual fee review meeting’ last popped up in my Google diary have I felt quite so melancholy. The feeling of disappointment matched only by that £3.2m house in Belsize Park that I sold a while back but that we charged only £795 (including vat) to sell.
Here’s the run down: the first 45 minutes of this semi-final were ours.
A goal from a free-kick expertly curled in by Trippier at five minutes set the scene and the pace for the first half and which England dominated. Our boys attacked the Croatian goal regularly but could not quite hit the spot again, yet the flow of play surely made even the more pessimistic/realistic amongst us lift our spirits and optimism that we could actually do this.
A place in the final surely beckoned. Really beckoned.
As the half drew on we saw more corners than an illegal loft conversion yet still we could not find the net. Stirling, Kane, Lingard and Maguire, whilst sounding like a pretentious North London ‘boutique’ estate agency office and matching such in confidence and assertiveness, repeatedly missed their target.
It could, no should, have been 3-0.
But it was ok, we were ahead at the half-time whistle.
Yet this is often the problem with England whereby a Foxtons-esque arrogance descends and we believe just a little too much in ourselves. Overvaluing ourselves, if you see what I mean. And then it goes to pieces. Disintegrates. (Any similarity here between my analogy and Foxtons’ share price is purely coincidental).
So it began. The fightback from our opponents in the second half that started to test our defence and our keeper.
Suddenly, Croatia are all over us, in our box, troubling us as we had troubled them. Pickford is attacked but as we have come to expect from such a mover (see what I did there?) he was up and at them deflecting and saving attempt after attempt as the game turned.
At 60 minutes or so in, it’s clear that we are on the back foot, accentuated by a thundering shot at goal by Perisic that Walker inadvertently obscures with his testicles to great effect.
Then, fatefully as it turns out, whilst surrounded by Maguire, Walker & Co, Perisic is at the end of a cross that he neatly taps in to equalise eight minutes later.
England are under pressure and face a further few minutes of bashing (akin only to the kind of assault that I myself receive in the comments section of this wonderful publication).
A relentless kicking and stabs at goal, a rebound from the post that Pickford would not have saved if it had been three inches to the left but then, redeeming himself, is deflected off the post to be struck again but this time safely into the boy-wonder’s hands.
Still 1-1. But to coin a footballing cliché, this is a game of two halves if ever there was. Role reversal indeed.
So, to extra time. Thirty minutes of anxiety but where, truth be known, my optimism has now been filed away deep in a hypothetical filing cabinet (Emoov doesn’t have actual filing cabinets).
Our play is sporadic at best. Croatia are better now. I start wishing for penalties as actually quite a nice outcome under the circumstances if we can get through this next half hour.
A more balanced game ensues with attempts and saves at both ends but which cannot obscure the dark reality that England have been here before. Beaten when under pressure. Heads down. Out of ideas and indeed energy. A collapse of the like equal only to that of a chain with a ‘call centre’ agent in the middle of it (I can do self-deprecating too).
And so it is at 109 minutes…. Mario Mandzucik pounces on a cheeky ball in to the England box and catches the England defence asleep. 2-1.
They think it’s all over? It really is now. And I for one will never, ever go to Croatia on holiday again.
But to Gareth Southgate and his team, you have not disgraced us. Far from any shame or disappointment, you have been true ambassadors, have enthralled the nation and brought us together in ever so slightly deluded hope, but hope and enthusiasm nonetheless. A heroes’ welcome surely awaits.
And we’ll just have to wait until 2022 to win the World Cup now. But what’s another four years when you’ve already waited 52?