Ian Hart: This England team can win the World Cup!
It was never in doubt was it?
Another memorable night watching the England football team taking us all to the brink.
Allegations of cheating levelled at our opponents is a little bit over the top. Granted the Colombians were perhaps guilty of classic gamesmanship, but with what was at stake should we have expected anything less?
It’s easy for us all to jump on the runaway train of expectation, after all the years of hurt and failure to have this young squad progressing through the competition, we wouldn’t be football fans without dreaming of winning the ultimate prize.
While it’s dangerous to get too carried away, as the tournament progresses you cannot help but begin to comprehend that this England team is capable of winning the World Cup.
There I’ve said it!
Pre-tournament I was confident of a quarter-final place with a real possibility of a semi-final encounter. So far this has been one of the, if not the best World Cups ever, and with a number of the big guns falling by the wayside anything is possible.
And now a word of caution, even with the likes of Argentina, Germany, Spain and Portugal already home, any nation in the last eight of the World Cup is going to be of a certain level.
Almost since Eric Dier slotted home the all important fifth penalty, a large number of people have all but written off our next opponents Sweden.
Thankfully the most important people in all of this, Gareth Southgate and his squad, won’t fall into this trap.
Quite simply, Saturday afternoon will be a game that will captivate the nation, but it won’t be a cakewalk, like many thought the Colombia game would be.
I’m sure the Swedes also think this could be their year, that said I think England will run out 2-1 winners in what will hopefully turn out to be a classic, where excuse the cliche, football will be the real winner.
Despite widespread concerns pre-tournament, the Russians have delivered an excellent event so far, I do wonder if in light of their extensive pre-tournament publicity, Russia’s leading football hooligans might have all had a visit from representatives of Mr Putin, laying down some ground rules.
No crowd trouble at a major tournament?
Unheard of, so well done Russia.
So onwards and upwards to Saturday afternoon, an England victory and the prospect of our first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.
But if Sweden were to break our hearts, Southgate’s squad will leave Russia with more positives than negatives, and in the knowledge that this group of players will be even better in two years for the Euros.