Wow! Tuesday evening was a special occasion, wasn’t it?
England knocking Germany out of a major tournament. I still can’t wipe the smile off my face.
I even had to switch off Sweden vs Ukraine at half-time because our match had emotionally drained me!
It was brilliant to watch but I don’t think we should be surprised. We’re in a good place as a nation and the players are in a great headspace.
A lot of club sides don’t play with the level of understanding, unity and togetherness England are currently displaying.
There was no panic when Germany made a fast start and I think once we got through those difficult first 15 minutes, the lads knew they had weathered the storm.
Sometimes in games at the top level, there are periods where you know you aren’t likely to score but you also aren’t going to concede.
It becomes about not making a mistake, being comfortable in possession and letting the game develop tactically.
I was particularly impressed with how we looked after the ball and showed great calmness in the opposition half in the latter stages.
We showed great game awareness to stay patient for so long but then really put our foot on the throttle to go for the kill.
It was a special moment for everyone at full-time — particularly Gareth Southgate.
I heard him talking in his post-match interview about seeing a clip of David Seaman on the big screen at Wembley and still feeling guilt for that penalty miss 25 years ago. Clearly that still affects him.
We’ve all had those moments where we carry regret from something in our life, so it is understandable. But Gareth can take pride that his team have created a brilliant memory for a whole new generation of fans.
Looking ahead to tonight’s clash, it’s a totally different test — and that includes having to travel for the first time.
From experience, there are small elements of your routine that become impacted when you’re on the move. Food, for example, will be a little different — although I’m sure the team chefs will try to combat that as much as possible.
The heat in Rome is another factor to consider but these are minor things. I think the biggest difference our players will feel will be the lack of fans!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure those based elsewhere in Europe that do manage to get in the ground will make plenty of noise. But it’s not going to be as intense as it was on Tuesday.
Ukraine were a bit lucky to get out of their group having lost two of three matches. Going to extra-time against Sweden also won’t have helped their cause for this match.
Trust me, playing extra-time in a tournament can zap you. You won’t feel it at the time but then a couple of days later, when it comes to going again, it’s draining.
But this is an opportunity for them — and a bit of a free hit.
They have some talented players in their ranks. And just like England, they represent their country with a lot of passion.
Ukraine has had plenty to deal with as a nation in recent years and every win means a lot. It won’t be an easy ride.
That said, we shouldn’t fear anyone. Let’s hope we can take that vital next step tonight!
Joleon Lescott was talking to Matthew Hill