First of all, I challenge myself to get through this ‘essay’ without mentioning the oft-repeated year that seems to come out of English football commentators' mouths at the slightest excuse, whenever “we”, as they say, even kick a ball in a World Cup or European Championships.
Of course I refer to the last time England were in a major international football final, back in ... Ahh, I see the point.
- In pictures: Euro 2020 - Italy's triumph over Spain at Wembley
- Euro 2020: England will kick themselves if they don’t go all the way this time
- Euro 2020: England v Denmark — Will Southgate end England’s semi-final curse at Wembley?
- AS IT HAPPENED: Euro 2020 - England defeat Denmark to reach final v Italy at Wembley
For the first time in 55 years, England are back in the finale of a super soccer showdown since they defeated West Germany to lift the Jules Rimet trophy, and they are also back at the same venue to take on Italy on Sunday, with their hands closer than they ever have been to silverware in the interim.
On Wednesday, Gareth Southgate’s side saw off a fighting Denmark in front of a passionate crowd at Wembley — 2-1 in extra-time — to achieve the once-regarded unachievable.
Yes, England won the World Cup five-and-a-half decades (running out of alternatives soon) ago at the old Wembley Stadium and now they will be back on Sunday at the new-look version of that famous ground, having triumphed over the Danes after 120 minutes filled and fraught with drama to book a spot against Italy.
They had failed in major competitions at the semi-final stage so many times (read: 1968, 1996 in the Euros, 1990, 2018 in the World Cup and even 2019 in the silly Uefa Nations League). But finally, England have put a paraphrased ‘55 years of hurt’ behind them to reach a major final. And they were well worth it.
In all my life, I have never seen an England side fight so much, and believe so much in each other — and I include the star-studded Mexico '86 and Italia '90 squads.
Southgate’s boys are the real deal, regardless of the naysayers at the start of the tournament about a weak manager and over-reliance on their strikers.
One goal conceded — which came last night from the Danes — in the entire Euro 2020 tournament is not an over-reliance on the goalscorers by any stretch. It is instead a resilience and determination bred over years which can only be built from the back. To highlight one player from goalkeeper to midfield would be unfair on the rest. To a man, they have been brilliant. Also Southgate’s tactics can no longer be slated, despite the ongoing Jack Grealish conundrum.
Denmark were fighting, never overawed but ultimately outclassed on Wednesday night, with Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane once again doing the damage up front, but the strength throughout this England team is what allows their fans to believe like never before — and they do like to believe before a failure.
We could actually see 2021 be the year they finally shrug off that 55-year wait and we can all forget about 1966 ... doh!