England's assault on Euro 2020 began in the fog at Middlesbrough five and a half weeks ago and will end on a summer evening at Wembley on Sunday.
In that short time, Gareth Southgate’s team has changed almost beyond recognition.
Not just in personnel — only four of Sunday's expected 11 started that night — but more pertinently in terms of belief, outlook, energy and confidence. Watching England grind Denmark into the turf on Wednesday evening was instructive.
England have grown into Euro 2020 in a way they have failed to do in previous tournamentsInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
The trajectory since that disappointing goalless draw against Scotland has been skywards
The stakes were almost uniquely high but there was a controlled and patient purpose about England as they worked a tiring team mercilessly and relentlessly around all corners of the field.
It is a while since an England team have grown into a tournament like they have this one. Since the draw against Scotland three weeks ago, England’s trajectory has been skywards almost without a misstep.
Southgate admitted that previous England teams have faltered physically in the late stages of tournaments and that can be applied to his own 2018 version who ran out of gas in the World Cup semi-final in Moscow.
But not this time. This England team would appear to have developed a momentum that may yet serve as their greatest asset when they face an Italy team who, man for man, may be slightly superior.
Gareth Southgate knows he has a team better suited to the physical demands facing them
Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips said: ‘Every game we go into we are confident, every game we don’t think we are going to lose.
‘We always knew we could cause teams problems. It’s about having the confidence to know that, no matter what happens in a game, we would either do something to turn it round or swing it in our favour.’Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Phillips did not feature in that first friendly in Middlesbrough. He was recovering from a shoulder injury.
But the 25-year-old’s progress through the tournament has mirrored that of the team.
Prior to the