♫ ♬ ♪ It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming … ♪ ♫ ♬ … well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves: there are still 180 minutes minimum of nerve-shredding, fingernail-bothering, brow-furrowing, edge-of-seat-teetering, stomach-churning, hand-wringing, throat-shredding, palm-sticking, breath-restricting, bowel-rumbling, eye-moistening, sweat-pouring, mind-racing, epoch-making, potentially-life-changing football between England and their holy grail of the 2018 World Cup.
But to blazes with rationality! Clear your throat, gargle with honey vodka, practice your scales, and belt it out loud! As the great soccer pundit Deborah Harry once so nearly observed: dreaming is free, Clive. So grasp with both hands this opportunity to get carried away in the moment; giddy excitement is the entire point of sport, and if it all goes wrong later, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Enjoy every sweet second while you can, because possibilities like these don’t come around too often. All together now: ♫ ♬ ♪ Three lions on a shirt, the Fifa World Cup Trophy™ still gleaming … ♪ ♫ ♬
To a whole generation, this is uncharted territory. But England have been here twice before. More specific details to come, because goodness knows we’ve got plenty of time to kill before kick-off. But consider: Alf Ramsey’s heroes saw off Portugal at Wembley in 1966 without too much bother, and look what happened after that. Then 24 years later, Bobby Robson’s side were a penalty shoot-out away from defeating one of the great West Germany teams. England handle themselves at this stage of the World Cup pretty well, you know.
There, that should calm your nerves. That hasn’t calmed your nerves, has it.
England’s opponents Croatia are contesting their second World Cup semi-final, looking to go one step further than 1998. It promises to be one heck of a battle. But whatever happens tonight, here’s to English and Croatian fans coming together as one in the name of peace, love and harmony. Life’s too short for a mere World Cup semi to drive a wedge between us … even if a bench-emptying brawl erupts in the last minute of extra-time as a result of an outrageous VAR penalty decision. We’re all bigger and better than that, right? Right! On we go, then. It’s the World Cup semi-final! A World Cup semi-final involving England! A World Cup semi-final involving England! Oh me! Oh my!! Oh help!!! It’s on!!!!!
Kick off: 7pm BST, 8pm in Zagreb, 9pm at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.