Before I delve into the many reasons as to why football is coming home this summer and how England are going to win the whole thing, first a caveat.
England have played two sides ranked 21 and 56 in the world; they’re hardly the cream of the World Cup’s crop, and we just about beat one of them in the opening game.
However, a 6-1 victory such as the kind England secured against Panama yesterday is nothing to sniff at and it should be applauded, no matter how ardent a critic you are.
There is something about Gareth Southgate’s side that you can’t help but root for; it’s the youthful exuberance of the likes of Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard; the sense that, for the first time in a generation, England’s players are enjoying themselves on the world stage. There is no fear in the squad.
Yes, yesterday’s demolition of Panama was expected and is hardly sending a frightening message out to the rest of the teams in the tournament, but these are exactly the kind of games that England have made a living in bottling in the past. For proof, see Algeria 2010, Costa Rica 2014 and Iceland 2016; games against so-called smaller nations that England succumbed pathetically too.
The three lions are playing with a freedom seldom seen before, and in Harry Kane, they have a world-class striker that can dig his side out of most holes. The real test will likely come in the quarter-finals, where The Three Lions will likely face either Germany or Brazil. But knowing this side, they won’t be fazed by such a prospect, and if anything they will head into the tie convinced they can secure a win.
England expects? No, England encourages is more like it. Let’s see what we can do.