Jordan Henderson is desperate to extend his record-breaking unbeaten run and help England reach the World Cup final.
Gareth Southgate’s men have ripped up the script over a remarkable a month that now sees them preparing for a semi-final clash against Croatia.
It has seen widespread apathy towards the Three Lions replaced by excitement and renewed hope, with previously unheralded players stepping up and better-known names underlining their quality and in some cases changing perceptions.
Henderson is among those to have quietened the doubters this summer, with the Liverpool captain shining in a side that is now preparing to line up at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.
“It’s a special feeling to know that people back home and out here in Russia are enjoying the experience just as much as we are,” the midfielder said on the eve of the game.
“All the celebrations and the songs they’re singing back home, it inspires us as players to be able to sort of bring the nation together and put smiles on people’s faces.
“I think that’s the biggest thing so far to come out of it and we just want to continue doing everybody proud.”
There is no doubt that pride has been restored regardless of the outcome on Wednesday, when Henderson’s selection is a good omen.
The 28-year-old has not tasted defeat in an England shirt since the last World Cup four years ago, going on a 30-match unbeaten run that is the longest of any player in the country’s history.
“Someone mentioned it the other day to us,” Henderson said with a smile. “But, to be honest, I wouldn’t really look too much into it because I don’t win on my own. We win as a team.
“Just as much as if I played and we lost every match, I don’t think it would be my fault either. Of course, I want to win. We want to win as a team. But it’s not down to any individual or one player.
“It’s down to us as a team. It’s down to what we do behind the scenes, what we work on in training, all the hard work to get here. The whole squad, even people who aren’t here that have chipped in for us to be in this situation now.
“That’s what I have a focus on. The biggest thing for me is just continuing to win – and hopefully a few more wins over the next week.”
That focus on collective success over individual achievement has been key to England’s success this summer, putting them within touching distance of joining the heroes of 1966 as the only team to make a World Cup final.
Henderson takes “a lot of good things from the past in terms of 66 and what they achieved then” but is not getting ahead of himself given the threat posed by Croatia.
The England regular spoke highly of fellow midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic along with Liverpool team-mate Dejan Lovren.
“I’ll obviously speak to the forwards and tell them what I think,” Henderson said. “But, at the end of the day, Dejan is a fantastic defender.
“I think he’s had his fair share of criticism over the last year or so, but he’s done so well over the last six months, really, especially after the start of the season.
“He’s suffered a lot of a criticism but he’s bounced back so well.
“For me, he’s got everything a centre-half needs: he’s aggressive, good in the air, can play out from the back, good on the ball and he’s a real leader as well, which is massive as a defender, always talking.
“I’m so pleased for him because he’s a great person as well. A great character off the field and in the dressing room.
“So, I’m pleased for him that he’s in a semi-final of a World Cup, but hopefully that journey for him ends tomorrow.
“I am very close to him at Liverpool and wish him all the best – but, like I say, hopefully that journey for him ends tomorrow.”
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