Expectation rising

Yesterday Joe Hart told the assembled media that England are in Poland and Ukraine ‘to win’ and whilst the confidence is good to see, it bears slight resemblance to the war cries that players past issued at, pretty much, every major tournament.

Roy Hodgson, the manager, has declared that football is about ‘dreaming’ and the seven points that the Three Lions amassed during the group stages have seen the country, gradually, start to do just that.

Air fares to the Ukrainian capital Kiev have risen by 50% as England prepare to take on Italy there on Sunday night, and with the Italian’s declaring Hodgson’s men the favourites, you have to wonder whether it is a way of piling the pressure on their opponents, taking into account the optimism that surrounds this current team.

Without wishing to sound too much like a killjoy, it is the Azzurri we are taking on and they will never be what you would describe a straight forward game. The Italian’s conceded just 2 goals in 10 games in qualifying and, defensively, they will be a tough nut to crack, although they are without Giorgio Chiellini on Sunday.

Any team with Mario Balotelli in it has a player that is capable of winning or losing the game for his team, he is liable to produce the profound or petulant in equal measure.

England are more than capable of beating Italy, but it would be foolish for us to start dreaming about what could be before we have even negotiated the Quarter Final stage. 

Psychologically getting through the group stages would of been a big boost for the players and our progression to the knock out stages was probably made easier by our ability to slip under the radar, so to speak.

For once the pressure was on another team, France, to win the group and they didn’t manage it. Let’s hope that another professional performance can see this, previously, unfancied England team into the Semi Finals.

You can find a video below of one of the great England performances.