I want to apologise. I know the form of these columns has been round-ups of the matches of each day. But I can’t resist devoting this entire addition to the absolute belter of a game that was on today: Sweden vs the Korea Republic.
I’m joking, of course. Harry Kane sent me and the watching masses at The Courtyard into raptures as a half of frustration, including seeing Jesse Lingard miss a point-blank shot when I had him down as the first goalscorer, was rewarded with a 91st minute winner.
I wrote a few weeks ago noting that England had gone 12 years since a major tournament knockout victory, resulting in a lack of pride in the team. I was wrong. Sitting in the bar 45 minutes before kickoff, I was greeted by the harpsichord opening of “Three Lions” to the thunderous applause of the crowd. And I was pleased too. England fans can deal with hurt. It’s in our blood. And today is up there with my top moments as a supporter.
England played exceptionally well. Some of the most scintillating attacking play since the tournament started was there from the word go. If I had one criticism, it is of the lack of willingness to play a risky ball, hit on first time over the top and try and find a runner, or, indeed, take a punt from 30-yards. But the build-up was beautiful and didn’t change. Gareth Southgate’s England look like a unit. A team. A wonderful group who play for each other. This is in stark contrast to 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. Funnily enough, removing record goalscorer, Wayne Rooney, from the squad seems to have catalyzed a real bond being formed.
Man-of-the-match goes to Harry Kane. Two goals in your first game as England captain, the youngest ever at a World Cup, as well as your own first game in the tournament is just immensely impressive and serves again to show why this lad is at the top of the game right now. He is, for me, top 3 out-and-out strikers in the world.
But now we look forward again: Panama on Sunday should all but confirm our place in the last-16 before a likely showdown with Belgium to see if we can top the group. In the immortal words of Jeremy from Peep Show: I don’t want to jinx it, but I think everything is going to brilliant forever.
It’s coming home.