England was last in the final four of a World Cup in Italy 1990, where they lost to West Germany on penalties. Before that, their only semifinal appearance was their victorious home-soil run in 1966. It’s not that they haven’t been close to making a return trip in the interim; they made quarterfinal appearances in 2002 (losing to Brazil) and 2006 (losing on penalties to Portugal.)

Now, in 2018, they’re heading back to the semifinals thanks to a relatively dominant win over Sweden. The English opened the scoring in the first half on a corner, which fits their 2018 narrative; they’ve scored more setpiece goals than any other team. In this case, it was a corner from Ashley Young headed home by big English boy Harry Maguire:

That’s a hell of a corner, and a reward for the work England manager Gareth Southgate has put in setting those up, drawing inspiration from NBA after timeout plays, which is sort of genius cross-sport application, if you think about it.

Here’s an example of England fans celebrating that is probably a representative one:

England’s next goal came in the second half, and it was from open play, at the end of a very threatening sequence:

Throughout the setup and finish there, Sweden very much looked like what happens when FIFA decides the AI-controlled team is going to score, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Sweden did respond very quickly, but a couple of fantastic Jordan Pickford stops kept the sheet clean:

That second one was an even better save than it looked at first glance:

But England held on, and on Wednesday they’ll play the winner of this afternoon’s last quarterfinal match between Croatia and Denmark. English fans, not surprisingly, were very happy to go through:

What a World Cup for England, who have done as much as any national team possibly can to make people forget about past failures. Now, though, they have a golden opportunity to make a World Cup final. Maybe football is coming home.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.