Before the defeat, the EU taunted England, saying, “Football is staying at home in the European Union!”
Prior to England’s elimination in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, the EU boasted that football was returning to “home the European Union,” a reference to the well-known “Three Lions” song.
England’s 55-year search for a piece of silverware came to an end yesterday evening. The team was defeated by a tenacious Italian side, which won the game 3-2 in a penalty shootout. Before the final, Italy had gone 33 games without losing and had clawed their way back into the game after Luke Shaw’s second-minute opening.
While many in England are still mourning the loss, many more in Europe are celebrating a victory that looks to have transcended sport.
Despite being a self-confessed “Anglophile” who lived in London as a student, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced her support for Italy before of the final.
In the round of 16, her home team, Germany, was eliminated by England after a 2-0 defeat.
While the European Commission seeks to maintain neutrality during sporting competitions between member states, Brexit has led to impassioned outbursts from many of the bloc’s top brass.
England, Belgium, Croatia, and France all advanced to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018.
The UK was leaving the EU at the time, and Jean-Claude Juncker’s former spokesman Margaritis Schinas made an inflammatory remark: “Football is staying home in the European Union.”
Mr Juncker’s most trusted assistant Martin Selmayr tweeted a smug celebration following England’s semi-final defeat to Croatia, uploading a string of football emojis and EU flags soon after the extra time setback.
Throughout this year’s European Championship campaign, EU leaders tried to persuade UEFA and FIFA not to allow the finals to be held in the United Kingdom due to mounting coronavirus incidence.
Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that 60,000 people will be in attendance, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi went so far as to call on European football’s regulatory body to reschedule the match.
Mr. Schinas, who is now a European Commissioner, informed the European Parliament that the semi-finals and final being held in London made no sense to him.
“I want to convey my worries regarding the idea of holding the final and semi-finals at the same time at Wembley, in a packed stadium,” he stated.