England have earned their supporters’ belief ahead of World Cup clash vs France

England are eyeing a place in the World Cup semi-finals, but will need to get past the world champions first.

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By the vast majority of even the most basic metrics, England are one of the top-performing sides at the World Cup Finals.

Gareth Southgate’s side were one of only three countries to have come through the group stages without a defeat, a statistic even the much-fancied Brazil, Argentina and France failed to match after they all suffered shock reverses in qualifying for the last 16. Of course, in Brazil and France’s case the hard work had already been done, but the statistic still rings true.

The Three Lions have found their shooting boots and they sit alongside Portugal as the tournament’s highest scoring team ahead of the start of the quarter-final fixtures with 12 goals coming from eight different scorers. Despite the understandable concerns over their defensive vulnerability, out of the remaining quarter-finalists only Morocco have conceded few goals than England’s two, a figure also boasted by the Netherlands.

They have already outlived a number of big-hitters at the tournament, with Belgium and Germany both failing to make it out of the group stages, and Spain falling in their first knockout tie against Morocco. It hasn’t been all plain-sailing, with the goalless group stage draw against the United States and the opening half-hour of the round-of-16 win against Ghana making for uncomfortable viewing for England supporters - but, by and large, Southgate’s men have controlled the vast majority of their games and have looked at ease.

Despite the statistics showing an impressive performance, it has to be asked why it seems there is a lot of negativity and a lack of genuine belief in the Three Lions as they approach a mouthwatering quarter-final clash against the reigning world champions, France. Of course, we are all burned by memories of penalty shoot-out defeats that have become a regular staple of major tournaments in the past and we can all reflect on the disappointments of the reigns of Steve McClaren, Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello that left England supporters wanting more.

It could be argued the current crop of Three Lions stars have also left supporters wanting more, but in reaching one major tournament final and a semi-final of a World Cup, the likes of Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Harry Kane and Jordan Pickford have already surpassed the ‘achievements’ of the supposed ‘Golden Generations’, who can only boast a high point of two World Cup Final quarter-final appearances and one in the last eight of the European Championships.

The same can be said of the man in charge, with Southgate outperforming a whole host of supposed bigger-name managers that were also put in charge of some highly-talented England squads. His quiet, unassuming manner and the positive environment he has fostered during his time in charge will have benefits beyond whenever his tenure comes to an end.

Yes, there have been disappointments, and the Euro 2020 Final heartache against Italy and the underwhelming World Cup semi-final defeat against Croatia are still very much fresh in the mind. There may well be another disappointment lying in wait when they face a Kylian Mbappe inspired France on Saturday night - although they have every right to be confident for the present and future with the likes of Jude Bellingham, Saka, Declan Rice, Foden and Marcus Rashford showing signs of realising their undoubted potential at the highest level.

There is so much to enthuse over about this England side that are developing with every major tournament. They are following a similar path to the one taken by Spain, who suffered quarter-final and Round of 16 defeats at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and a group stage exit at Euro 2004 before going on the claim the next three major tournaments.

That is not to suggest England will match the achievements of La Roja - but the Three Lions are now seen as a threat, not the also-rans they have been in the not-too-distant past.