Yesterday, in my opinion, marked the real start to this year's European Championships.
Since extending the competition meant that third placed teams could potentially find their way into the knockout stages of the Euros, the group phase seemed to pass the majority of teams by, with many of the sides taking part happy to play for draws and perhaps subconsciously exhume a considerably smaller amount of effort in order to save themselves for the bigger, more important games.
Now, with the final games of the round of sixteen being played tonight, we've seen a swift change in the way that the perceived 'better sides' seem to operate. When Germany, France and Belgium needed to be ruthless yesterday they were, and all three countires showed that they have what it takes to be a real threat in the latter stages of the competition.
Germany decimated Slovakia at a canter, and England fans know exactly how difficult we found it to take apart Hamsik and co. Similarly, the Republic of Ireland were lucky to end the game with France having conceded just two, whilst Belgium's array of superstars put on a show as they embarrassed Hungary in Toulouse, making a mockery of a side who had shown right through the group stages that they were organised and hard-working.
And when you look at those results, you have to view England and their opposition this evening, Iceland, in the same way. Make no bones about it, Iceland have more than proven themselves at this level, but... really? Teams like that shouldn't be able to live with the amount of talent that we have afforded to us.
And that isn't me underestimating the Icelandics, either. In Gylfi Sigurdsson they have one of the most underrated midfielders in Europe, whilst right through qualifying and the group stages they have shown a level of experience and quality that has them deservedly where they are, in the last sixteen of this year's competition. I understand that they aren't to be taken lightly.
But lets face it, anything other than a convincing win tonight for England should see Roy Hodgson's head metaphorically on a spike come the end of the tournament. We've been gifted an absolute gem of a tie at this stage of the European Championships and this is our opportunity to show why we are going to go on to win this entire competition, much like Germany, France and Belgium did yesterday in their respective last sixteen ties.
And that might seem as though I'm placing huge pressure on the England players to deliver, but they need to handle that type of expectation. We have a far deeper squad of players than Iceland have to select from and should be coasting through games like this.
Will we do it? Well, I suppose time will tell. Everything seems to point towards the restoration of Raheem Sterling to the starting eleven tonight, and though I'm not his greatest fan it was clear against Slovakia in our last group game that we lacked any semblance of width, and with Hodgson negating to select any other actual wide players - despite having twenty opportunities to do so - I guess he has to start. Here's hoping that his spell on the sidelines, having had time to reflect upon the abortion that was his first half against Wales, stands him in good stead to deliver some quality tonight, live up to his price tag and show just why he deserves to be on that pitch.
I feel like I'm beating a dead horse in saying this but England's success lies in Hodgson actually picking players that make a balanced side. Look at what you have to work with, and play to their strengths. It really is that simple.
You have the spine of a Tottenham side there that almost won a league title and scored goals for fun pretty frequently at a much higher level than England are playing at, so why ignore it? Put Dele Alli in behind Harry Kane, have Eric Dier anchoring the defence and let Rose and Walker get forward when they can. Everything else should have to be slotted in around that system, including the perceived 'bigger' names that are in the England side on a regular basis.
As I've already stated though the team that Hodgson fields tonight is pretty irrelevant considering we probably could have taken another eighty players to the Euros that would have walked into the Iceland squad. Failing to beat a side that are perceived as complete minnows in anything other than a convincing fashion would be an absolute embarrassment in my eyes and I hope that is the attitude that the players take when they go onto the field tonight.
Why not be arrogant? Isn't that the mark of a side that wants to achieve success?