England's historic advancement to their first major tournament final on foreign soil at Euro 2024 is the culmination of a ten-year commitment to a player development program that has transformed perennial underachievers into consistent contenders. The final obstacle for Gareth Southgate's team is to end a 58-year drought for a major trophy in the senior men's international arena, which they aim to achieve in the final against Spain on Sunday, following a series of successes at youth level and in women's football.

Just months after the Three Lions' early exit from the 2014 World Cup, Southgate, then the under-21 coach, and Dan Ashworth, the English Football Association's technical director, unveiled a strategy called 'England DNA'. This initiative aimed to combine the renowned passion of English football with improved technical skills and a resilient mindset to cope with the pressures of major tournaments. Ashworth, recently appointed as Manchester United's sporting director, emphasized the consistency in their approach: 'The only thing that changes is the size of the shirt', ensuring uniform messaging throughout the player development pathway from under-15 to senior level.

The effectiveness of this approach is evident across all levels. Many players in Southgate's squad have already tasted tournament victories at youth levels. Notably, Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer were part of the team that secured England's first under-21 Euros in 39 years by defeating Spain in the final a year ago. Ezri Konsa and Phil Foden also boast victories in the Under-20 and under-17 World Cups, respectively. Meanwhile, England's women achieved their first major tournament win at home in the Euros in 2022 and advanced to the World Cup final the following year.

Ashworth highlighted that while England's passion, fighting spirit, and effort are valued, they aim to evolve beyond these traits. The integration of traditional resilience with higher technical standards has propelled England to the Euro 2024 final. Despite initial struggles in the group stage, marked by only two goals in three games, England rallied with crucial contributions from Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka to advance past Slovakia and Switzerland. Their strategic investment paid off with a memorable 2-1 semifinal victory over the Netherlands in Dortmund.

The upcoming final against Spain, a team that has dominated including victories over Germany and France, presents the ultimate challenge. England, under Southgate, has faced several near misses, notably reaching the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and the Euro 2020 final. The lessons from past disappointments, such as the missed penalty by Harry Kane against France in the 2021 World Cup quarterfinal, have prepared them for a potential European championship victory.

Southgate acknowledges the growth in experience and composure his team has gained, particularly in knockout stages. 'We're more calm going into the knockout games because the first time we did it in Russia, we hadn't won a knockout game for 10 years,' he noted. With a refined approach and a history of overcoming adversity, England stands poised to claim their first European title.