The sun was shining, fans were roaring in the stands … England was on its way to victory at a major tournament.
If you were half asleep, you could be forgiven for thinking it was 2018 all over again, the great English summer of footballing optimism.
For those who need a refresher, 2018 saw a likable, young, talented England team perform exceptionally on the big stage at the Russia World Cup.
It was a summer spent by the majority in beer gardens, flinging pints of beer into the air in joy.
This morning when Raheem Sterling slotted home against Croatia, the team that ruined the illusion of England’s footballing progress in Russia, the 22,500 supporters roared as one, Sterling wheeled off in celebration and everything was right with the world once again.
That it happened at Wembley felt like the myth of 2018 had come true: Football had come home.
Only, if you scratch beneath the surface, that was not the case.
For a start, the optimism of 2018 no longer exists.
The euphoria and buzz of England’s heady run to the World Cup semi finals has not only been replaced by an expectation and angst that this should now be what England will achieve every tournament, but a significant portion of England’s support now appear to dislike this England team — or at least that they kneel before every match.
The predicted boos were muffled by cheers at Wembley when England players took the knee at the start of the contest, but they were still there.
On the field, there were signs England might still not have grown from a second-tier international side to one of the perennial favourites at big tournaments.
After a bright first 15 minutes, Gareth Southgate’s side soon lost the run of the midfield — as they had after taking the lead against Croatia in the World Cup semi final — and looked bereft of ideas.
The move that led to England’s goal after half-time was a fluid one, totalling 17 passes in all, but overall, the performance was a sluggish one against a Croatia side that has faded somewhat from its peak at Russia 2018.
From what we’ve seen so far from Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, much more will be required from England if they’re to progress through the knockout phases.
Perhaps it’s too soon for pessimism. England has three points in the bag against Group D’s toughest opponent on paper and a blockbuster clash against old rivals Scotland coming up next. A win in that match would certainly sweep out any cobwebs and add to the side’s momentum.
But it’s also worth bearing in mind that topping the group would mean a first knockout-round clash with the runners-up in Group F, which contains France, Portugal and Germany.
We may find out very quickly in Euro 2020 whether England is really one of the big dogs.