Stuart Pearce has been part of two England sides that have only been a penalty shootout away from competing in the final for a major trophy, yet he believes this really can be the year football comes home.
Speaking exclusively to The Sportsman, when asked if football is finally coming home after England beat Germany in the last 16 he said, “I think it is. I really do. Pre-German game, I thought if we win this this will be the catalyst and give real belief to the players. I see no reason why England have not got the ability - we've got the home advantage if we get past Ukraine.
“The games are never easy but I think there's a lot of teams left in this tournament that will not want to face the English, that is for sure. Probably, after the Germany performance the marker that was put down, there is probably the Italians, Spanish and Belgians thinking 'I'm glad they are not our side of the draw'.”
England’s win over Germany now sets up an interesting encounter with Ukraine, who beat Sweden with a last minute winner in extra-time, and as a coach at West Ham, Pearce knows their captain, Andriy Yarmolenko extremely well.
“He is a good kid, an intelligent boy,” Pearce says. “He has played 90 odd games (98) for the Ukraine and got 40 odd goals (42), so that takes some doing at international level, he is their captain. He has found it a little bit tough at West Ham this season, that is probably less down to him and more down to the fact that Jesse Lingard joined us and did well and [Jarrod] Bowen and [Pablo] Fornals and various other players have done really well.
“When he has played he has not let us down. He understands the game very well and he is one of the players that we have got to be very mindful of, certainly as a goalscoring threat but just as importantly is his delivery as well.”
Gareth Southgate’s side now find themselves in a situation no England team has been in before. They have essentially been playing a home tournament, with all matches at Wembley to date, but now they must travel to Rome for the quarter-final, before potentially returning to London for the semi-final and final.
“I'm sure they'd rather stay at Wembley,” Pearce accepts. “They've enjoyed the Wembley environment. The goal at the end of it is potentially two matches at Wembley again which is a real bonus to us if we get through.
“I think a lot of these players are used to playing in European football, it is almost like a Champions League game and also the opposition have been on the move quite regularly, not had home advantage and certainly Rome isn't home for them. So we are all in the same boat, maybe it just might freshen the squad up.
“When you've been in one place the whole time, at St Georges Park, sometimes a trip to Rome for a few days and maybe a bit of sunshine might be the lift they need at this stage. Of course, and I'm a little bit disappointed I can't go to Rome with the commentary team - I've got to do it from London!”
Coming off the back of such a high, having beaten Germany in the knockout stages for the first time since 1966, the England legend is also wary of complacency heading into this one.
“It's going to be a tight game again,” he warns. “Ukraine are nobody’s fools, make no mistake about that. [Andriy] Shevchenko has taken them as far as they have been in knockout stages, so every game in this tournament - if you want to point out how difficult games are, just give the French squad a ring and ask them how difficult they thought an easy game was going to be.
“There's no easy games in this tournament especially in the latter stages, we've got to concentrate, play well, Gareth's got to get his team right again, substitutions have to impact the game when they come on and we've got to take our chances when they come. I think we'll win the game 3-1.”