Mark Noble believes it’s coming home and England can win the FIFA World Cup.
The West Ham United captain says the Three Lions can emulate the achievement of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters and be crowned champions of the world for a second time.
“I actually really believe it is coming home, yeah!” he said, speaking ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final with Sweden in Samara. “I do believe there will be a couple of tough games but, if you look at who we have got to play, I think we’ll beat Sweden, then it’s either Croatia or Russia.
“I think Croatia are a really good team, but they wouldn’t scare me if I was playing for England.
“So, yeah, I think we’ve had a fantastic route to the quarter-finals with the teams we’ve had to play, but you can only beat who is in front of you and we’ve done that so far.
“Especially with the way Harry Kane is playing at the minute, and I think Jesse Lingard has been fantastic, fingers crossed!”
I think we’ll beat Sweden, then it’s either Croatia or Russia. I think Croatia are a really good team, but they wouldn’t scare me
Noble, who played alongside the likes of Russia 2018 squad members Ashley Young, Danny Rose and James Milner as England U21 skipper, says Gareth Southgate’s side have got the whole country behind them with their positive on and off-field approach to the tournament.
“Over the years, we’ve watched England and we’ve all been disappointed, you know, but when you actually know players personally and you’ve got a whole nation behind you and it doesn’t go as well as you want it to go, or you don’t play as well as you want to, for different reasons, it hurts, because you know how much they want to play for England and how much it means to them, but for some reason it didn’t go well.
“I think now, in that England squad, we’ve got a fantastic mix of pace, power and skill and I think it helps that four or five players from Spurs know each other really well, and four or five from Man City know each other really well, and they play under Pochettino and Guardiola and they play a similar way. I think that has helped our England squad, as it is, massively at the minute.”
The Hammers’ penalty king was transfixed as England ended their own spot-kick woes by beating Colombia in Tuesday’s quarter-final, conjuring memories of his own heartache as his England U21s were edged out 12-11 in the 2007 UEFA European Championship semi-finals.
Noble was delighted when Jordan Pickford spared namesake Henderson’s blushes by saving Carlos Bacca’s shot from the spot, before revealing a West Ham link to England’s long-awaited shootout success.
“Because I took penalties myself, not at that level but in an Under-21s [European Championship] semi-final, in a penalty shootout where we had to take two because it went on that long, I know it’s a massive relief when it hits the back of the net!
“I was just looking at them hoping they’d score. Obviously Jordan Henderson didn’t, but his ‘keeper Jordan Pickford bailed him out, which was fantastic, and it will make Jordan [Henderson] feel a lot better in himself because they got through.
“No-one wants to see a player miss a penalty to knock their country out of the World Cup, that’s for sure and it’s about time we won one!
“I know the goalkeeping coach Marge (former West Ham coach Martyn Margetson) really well and he’s a great fella, especially on set plays and on penalty takers. He’d have looked at all their penalty takers and that little extra per cent pays off.”