Alive and Kicking

As the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, crowds continue to come together around the country for the showdown against Italy.

Photo by Habib Ayoade

Making history has been the hallmark of Gareth Southgate’s leadership. To date this England has broken several barriers and getting to the final is just one of them.

After 55 years of pain and hurt, the team deserves a little luck. And they seemed to have received some already – first, being drawn in the easier half of the draw and then the soft penalty awarded in the semi-final against Denmark.

But hey, England were the better team on the night, deserved to win and here we are in the final!

Luck aside, you can’t fault the hard work and determination of the players. They perform with passion and pride and these are just some of the characteristics Southgate has developed as part of their team identity.

My German friend Georg sent a text after the Denmark victory, saying he’s excited about the final, but thinks Italy are the better team. He thinks Italy will win, but will allow England a win to end their suffering. That’s the true spirit of sport.

As the minutes tick down to kick-off, expectation builds alongside the excitement. 60,000 fans will cheer England on at Wembley.

The energy of the crowd can never be underestimated and with almost all restrictions lifted football is alive again. Let’s see if that energy carries England across the line as the players and fans unite to the tune of Sweet Caroline.

Let’s hope this evening’s battle takes on a similar tone to that of my friend - that everyone involved on and off the field tonight behave with mutual respect and true sportsmanship.

May the best team win!