Express & Star comment: Fever pitch as England go for glory
What a summer this is turning out to be.
Not only do we have glorious weather, but we also have an England team with a realistic chance of actually reaching the World Cup final.
You don’t need to be a football fan to appreciate the impact that Gareth Southgate’s team is having on the national psyche.
For a long time, the last 16 clash against Colombia had all the markings of a typical England exit.
The South Americans used every trick in the book – many of which were outside the laws of the game – to put Harry Kane and the boys off their stride.
There were crude challenges, constant referee baiting and England’s players were put under extreme provocation.
When Colombia scored the last-minute equaliser and England appeared to feel the pressure during extra time, many people would have feared the worst. And those feelings would have only been exacerbated when Jordan Henderson missed his spot kick in the shoot-out.
We have been down this route to disappointment so many times before it has become a national trait.
But this was England’s night, and after experiencing penalty shoot-out glory for the first time ever at a World Cup finals, Colombia were deservedly dispatched from the competition.
It is estimated that the total television audience for the game was more than 30 million, making it one of the most watched events in British television history.
Goodness knows what the figure will rise to should England beat Sweden on Saturday and progress to the semi-finals.
The passion for the team on England’s streets is already approaching fever pitch.
In 1990, it was the exploits of Sir Bobby Robson’s England squad, featuring our very own Steve Bull, which led to Rupert Murdoch deciding that the nation’s passion for football could drive his fledgling subscription channel Sky.
Almost 30 years on, and the game has never been more popular. But away from all the shiny stadiums, the plush facilities and the star players with their multi-million pound contracts, football still remains the people’s game.
There is little doubt that for the time being at least, it is putting a broad smile on the face of the country.
Come on England!