(Reuters) - England have their best chance in decades to lift the World Cup, having fallen short in the semi-finals in 1990, and the nation’s media are getting into a frenzy.
Goals from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli gave Gareth Southgate’s side a deserved 2-0 last-eight win over Sweden on Saturday, and they must now prepare to take on Croatia in three days time for a spot in the World Cup final.
“Semi Gods,” the Sunday Mirror declared with a picture of English players celebrating Maguire’s thumping header to opening the scoring, while the Sunday People’s headline urged the fans and the squad to “Keep calm and Harry on”.
The Observer said a nation hungry for joy has finally found its new heroes. The Sunday Express said a quietly confident nation has started to believe that football could really be “coming home”, as England’s 1996 soccer anthem goes.
The last time England reached the semis was in 1990 in Italy, when they lost out to Germany in a penalty shootout. But the country’s media believe things could be different with the confident unit led by captain Harry Kane, the top scorer in the tournament so far.
David Baddiel - who co-wrote the anthem ‘Three Lions’ for the Euro 96 tournament - told the Sunday Times that the current squad has shrugged off the suffocating burdens of history and could lift the trophy for the first time since 1966.
“I am daring to hope because I think this is a team marked by joy and newness and youth and Gareth Southgate’s deep emotional intelligence,” said Baddiel, whose iconic song has made its way back up the music charts this week.
Former England international Gary Neville, who was assistant to Roy Hodgson when they were knocked out by Iceland in last-16 at Euro 2016, felt the current pool of players have shown great maturity throughout the tournament in Russia.
“I have to say over the last 25 years of England, when we’re winning we usually drop deep and protect, and when we’re losing we get desperate,” Neville told ITV.
“This team, with every performance I’ve seen in this tournament, it has been controlled and composed.”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson