As a player, captain, fan and expert, I have had so many great moments with England, but Sunday’s European Championship final at Wembley will be the most important of them all.
I’m 50 years old and we’ve never been to a major men’s final in my life. There are generations that are alike, who have never seen us come here before.
Waiting so long makes it feel like it’s even more special now that we’ve made it – to be honest, it just keeps sinking.
Whether it’s European Championships or World Cups, we’ve gotten into the habit of labeling every final with a disappointment – reminding ourselves of what went wrong or when we didn’t. not had any luck every time.
The first time I saw England reach a semi-final was at the 1990 World Cup. I was 19 and saw us lose to West Germany on penalties then. that I was on a family vacation in Portugal.
In 1996, I was obviously in the field when the same thing happened at the European Championship. During the 2018 World Cup, I was in the BBC studio in Moscow. It’s the same feeling, though, because you feel absolutely overwhelmed whether you’re watching or participating.
This time, 25 years after Euro 96, I was back at Wembley, standing next to Gary Lineker on Wednesday night and hoarse with the rest of the crowd in one of the most tense and tense matches. agonizing that I have ever known. already seen.
But this time it was different. We won. Denmark fought very well but we passed them and we deserved it too.
Yes, a big moment unfolded with the penalty decision for the winner Harry Kane, which we are not used to.
It wasn’t the first time we were lucky in this tournament either – remember Thomas Muller’s failure for Germany in the round of 16? – but let’s just hope to have a little more in the final.
To see this England team change the narrative and make it happen after all these years was just amazing. It has been an amazing month, and now they are on the verge of greatness.
They have one game left and they still have to finish the job against Italy, but tactically, mentally and physically they will be ready.
I can not wait. I just hope it’s a Super Sunday in every way, and that these boys and Gareth Southgate can come out and seize the moment, and make the story.
Southgate brilliantly ruled England
There are several reasons why I will believe in this England team when they come out at Wembley on Sunday, and Southgate is the biggest.
He has led his team brilliantly in every way since the start of Euro 2020 and not only has he made some big decisions, he has taken them all well.
It’s easier to be a player than a supporter in the stands and, like many of you, I have struggled over the past few weeks to watch as an England fan when our games were on the line.
Imagine how difficult it is for Gareth, however. As England manager he has 60 million people on his back because he carries the hopes of all of us, the entire nation.
There is so much control over every call he makes, then he has to be alone on the sideline while they wait for them to work.
So I could understand his relief and his reaction at the end of the game against Denmark when he let his emotions run wild. He did it because he feels the same way we do when we win.
Whatever happens next, he gave us so much joy and happiness – but I’m desperate to see that same celebration again from him on Sunday night.
The dream finish?
There is no doubt in my mind that the top two teams in the tournament have reached the final, and it will be an incredibly close game.
Italy have played 33 games without losing, which shows how strong they are. They have the same kind of unity in their squad as we do, and they have been extremely impressive since starting Euro 2020 by beating Turkey in their first group game.
But England also performed very well, and so many of our players did their part when it counted.
It was Harry Kane who put us in the final with the winner on Wednesday and he was excellent throughout the game. Harry Maguire too, and the rest of our full-backs too.
The best player in the park, however, was Raheem Sterling. He was unplayable at times and it was probably his best game for England.
More of the same from Sterling on Sunday, and we’re very lucky.
The other thing we have going for us, of course, is the Wembley crowd. There will again be over 65,000 fans in the final, and the majority of them will be behind England.
They were huge against Denmark and stayed with the team when they were down 1-0. Players fed off their intensity when they turned the tide.
You can be sure England won’t have everything they want on Sunday and there will be spells in the game where they need that support again. I’ll be there to cheer them on – hoping to get them across the line.
What is the dream end of the history of England? Well, having been the 2018 World Cup top scorer, Kane has scored four goals in this tournament and needs one more for a slice of the golden shoe.
Hopefully he gets it by scoring the winner against Italy. I don’t care when it comes.
Alan Shearer was speaking to Chris Bevan of BBC Sport.