We can beat the Italians and dare to dream

It’s important the parade continues – but safely

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The excitement is building as the nation prepares to roar on our footballers against Italy on Sunday. We’re in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, the knockout stages where the serious stuff begins. Fans can begin to think about trophy-winning glory, but first we have to negotiate our way past a familiar and formidable footballing foe.

The way our group panned out, with England top, surprised many people. Indeed, there were plenty of doom-mongers who confidently predicted this England team were just not good enough and that they would have been on a plane home by now.

Yes, we’ve not exactly set the tournament alight – yet. But under Roy Hodgson we’re a well-organised side that is difficult to break down and that can punish opposition defences.

Steven Gerrard’s revelling in the captaincy of his country and leading by example, while world-class Wayne Rooney now has a match and a goal under his belt and looks happy in this new England set-up.

Meanwhile the new generation of players such as Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck and Portsmouth’s very own Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have added a youthful freshness to the squad.

As we all get ready for the big match, it’s not only good news for sports fans. Pubs are going to be packed on what might otherwise have been a fairly quiet Sunday night.

As the flags of St George fly with pride, there’s a sense of optimism in the air. We’re going to have to raise our game to beat the Italians, but we can do it.

And if we do get through to the semi-finals, what price going all the way and winning the tournament?

Whatever happens, we’re delighted for Roy Hodgson. New in the job, he initially took some stick and was on the end of some extremely ignorant headlines making fun of the way he speaks.

But he has answered the critics in the best way possible, getting the players united and playing for him and making some good decisions in matches that have got us this far.

Forza Inghilterra!