England top their group and qualify for the Euro 2012 quarter-finals. A sentence many didn't expect to see written this summer, and one I suspect that some of the fiercest critics of Roy Hodgson's appointment might privately have hoped not to read.
As someone who saw the sense and reason in making Hodgson England's head coach, I was absolutely delighted to see them reach the last eight on merit and three-points clear of the much more fancied French.
Surely, I thought, this is cause to be pleased and cautiously optimistic about the future, not just in this tournament but in the years going forward.
Caller after caller to radio phone-ins, at least half of those I heard, lamented a 'terrible' England side
Gauging post-match reaction across all manner of media platforms it would seem that there are plenty of people that agree, but what surprised me is that equally as many are repulsed by Roy's England.
Caller after caller to radio phone-ins, at least half of those I heard, lamented a 'terrible' England side playing an 'embarrassing' brand of football, that will be 'ruthlessly exposed' by the Italians in Kyiv on Sunday.
More than a few even asked, with straight faces presumably, why England are not attempting to play more like Spain. If any England staff had the misfortune to hear any of this I can only hope they laughed rather than cried.
I just don't know what these critics expect. This is an England squad missing several players through injury, with an average age of 26, the third youngest at the tournament - led by a new head coach, who had just over a month to prepare for the tournament.
A group of players all pulling in the same direction and looking after each other, rather than number one.
Even arguably the nation's most talented individual was unavailable for the first two matches through suspension. Just taking these factors into consideration, Roy Hodgson, his staff and the players have done very well in qualifying from what was a competitive group, offering three very different challenges.
They've done it by being, for the most part, tactically sound, well organised defensively (expect for 20 minutes v Sweden) but most importantly they have played like a team.
After a decade of watching a collection of individuals known as the 'golden generation' consistently flatter to deceive, I've found it incredibly refreshing to finally see a group of players all pulling in the same direction and looking after each other, rather than number one.
Under Hodgson they've found an identity that's not been there since Venables and Euro '96 - they're English, they're playing to their strengths and whether the critics like it or not, English football's strengths have never been and probably never will be 'tiki-taka' football...and why on earth should it be?!
The sport isn't a beauty contest and why would you try and play in a way that doesn't suit the qualities of your players
Football is simple really, people over-complicate it. The game requires you to score more goals than the other team and there are many, many ways of achieving that, Spain's attractive approach is just one of those.
The sport isn't a beauty contest and why would you try and play in a way that doesn't suit the qualities of your players or try and take on another team by using a style of play that they are far better at deploying than you are?
A well-organised team that gets results by being difficult to beat and taking the limited number of chance it creates, is just as worthy of praise and victory as a side that plays free-flowing, expansive football. Besides, I thought Carroll's powerful header from a pin-point Gerrard cross against Sweden was a thing of beauty...it's in the eye of the beholder, as they say.
Whether England can produce enough moments like that to go all the way at Euro 2012 is still very questionable and I hope the nation remains grounded and cautious, despite qualification for the knock-out stages.
The vast majority of England fans would probably accept that if Euro 2012 were played over a thirty-eight game league season, their team would be struggling to qualify for Europe. It isn't though. You have a maximum of six games at this tournament and you can go a very long way with team spirit, good organisation and a bit of luck...just ask Greece and Denmark.
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