SAMARA, Russia—England’s run during this World Cup has been a windfall of firsts. Which is oddly peculiar for the same reason that it is appropriate: This is the country that first kicked around a ball and created the sport that’s being played here.
But the last 50-plus years of English soccer have been so filled with agony that England had to reinvent itself because it couldn’t reinvent the sport. And already this tournament has been filled with a giddy run of new beginnings: The first time it ever scored six goals in a World Cup game, the first time it advanced at the World Cup on penalty kicks, and even its first quarterfinal appearance in 12 years was celebrated as a monumental achievement.
So it was only appropriate that the score that gave England the lead on Saturday en route its first World Cup semifinal berth since 1990 came on yet another first: a goal from a player who had never scored before in an England uniform.
Harry Maguire’s header, which was later supplemented by another headed score from Dele Alli, gave England a 2-0 quarterfinal win over Sweden. Now, improbably, England is just two wins away from winning its first World Cup since 1966. Its fans, who had revived a 22-year-old song about the team half-sarcastically during this run, are suddenly starting to believe its message even more. Throughout the second half, fans here at Samara Arena belted the song’s refrain: “It’s coming home. Football’s coming home.”
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