Daring to Dream: England’s Story at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Review

Buoyed by a fascination for conflict and competition, football brings entertainment to millions. There is no greater a time than the moments fans can revel in together. A sense of unity lingers, but in recent years has yet to be established. How, then, are we to bridge that gap? Shoddy documentaries that run like best-of clip shows that hold within them about four minutes of worth is not the way to go. Inevitabilities such as Daring to Dream: England’s Story at the 2018 FIFA World Cup are remiss to the point of capturing the mood and tone of a fleeting rise of success. Ebbing away and moving on far faster than Daring to Dream could release, fans had, broadly, moved on from the heartbreak of the semi-final loss, but director Steve Younger has not. 

England fans suffered, and liked it. Russell Baker is an unlikely candidate to open a football documentary, but it was unlikely England would get close to a World Cup final, let alone out of the group stages. A nice understanding of the tumultuous times of the England squad is established, but briskly. Nonsense narration that wishes to spark encouragement where the tattered remains of a new squad lie. England manager Gareth Southgate and those that don the shirt of the Three Lions are on hand to recount the build-up and fallout of the World Cup conquest. Youth is Southgate’s game, much of his time was spent with the U-21s, and it shaped his style of play. A “baggage-free” England, says the commentator, has a good chance of it all.  

Chance indeed. What we realise on reflection is that it was a blend of luck and skill, weighing more toward the former, that got us so close to World Cup glory. That much is not realised within Daring to Dream, to do so would undercut the desire and nostalgia people have for the heights this squad hit. Is it admirable what they did? Sure. But this package is not worth the time. It is a highlight reel, commentary and all, in timeline order. The usual soppy drag looking to bank on the brilliance of the beautiful game. Daring to Dream should be more than that though. It is not as if there is little time for reflection or interesting topics of behind-the-scenes moments that shaped the way the game played out.  

A glossed-up clip show plays out for an hour and a half, hoping to cash in on the values England held not just as a team, but country too. As if the beer-bellied, crisp-hoovering, crusty-flag draping community care about seeing this success beyond clips of Kieran Trippier’s free kick against Croatia on YouTube. All that is left then are those that wish to wash in the winning ways of a squad that had a good, surprising run against opponents who were, frankly, worse than them. Were they good? We must assume so, as Younger is not going to figure it out for us. Why would he? Wishful thinking, much like England’s story at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. What a title, what a team, what a waste.  

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