I’m aware that England probably aren’t going to win the world cup. We’re probably going to fall short in some way. But today, we can dream.
As a Hartlepool and England fan, I don’t have much experience of winning things. But sometimes the experience of pursuing glory is its own reward.
In 2005 I felt frustration when Hartlepool lost a playoff final to Sheffield Wednesday, but also intense pride that my team had pushed a bigger, richer club so close.
In 1996 I was in tears as England lost to Germany. But looking back as an adult, I feel pride at the times when England were bold, and pushed the strongest, most well-drilled teams in world football so far.
At times I feel embarrassed by my nation, ashamed of the violence, the stupidity, the hatred that people excuse by wrapping a flag around their shoulders.
But sport can bring out the positive side of nationalism. The sense of joy, of camaraderie, the sense that we have more in common than our superficial differences.
Euro 96, the 2012 Olympics were tastes of what it’s like to be part of a nation that’s outward looking, warm and inviting, with the confidence to take on the world with smiles on our faces, rather than cut ourselves off and hide in fear.
We can choose to be a nation who fly into a rage because a twitter parody account says that Wetherspoons are banning England shirts.
Or we can be a nation determined to take on the world, and enjoy the experience. I know that was then, but it could be again.
I don’t know if this England team are good enough to go all the way.
But they are good enough to inspire dreams, to create the type of experiences that bind us together. That’s enough to get excited about.