England are “not the most talented team at this World Cup”, says Alan Shearer, but the Three Lions have got “a great chance of winning it”.
The Three Lions arrived in Russia free of the pressure and expectation which has weighed heavy on past generations at major tournaments.
With Gareth Southgate giving his players freedom to express themselves, a string of positive performances have delivered a quarter-final berth.
Sweden are next up for England on Saturday, with former captain Shearer of the opinion that a long wait for major international honours could finally be ended this summer by a team high on fighting spirit.
“What we might lack in ability, we make up for with a superb team spirit and enormous character, and it is amazing how far that can take you.
“As we saw on what was a memorable night for Gareth Southgate's side in Moscow on Tuesday, the difference between success and failure in football can come down to extremely fine margins.
“The best teams do not always come out on top, but it is the ones with togetherness and belief that go on and achieve things at a tournament like this, and England have definitely shown their mettle there.
“They overcame every setback they faced against the South Americans and everyone is so proud of them, especially because all the previous shootout failures we have had made things even harder.
“There have probably been more gifted England squads at World Cups in recent years but, in terms of a unit, we might not have had a better group of players than this one.
“That's part of what makes this team different - England are young, vibrant and exciting and have got a great attitude.”
Having edged out Colombia in a first penalty shootout success at a World Cup, England head into a last eight showdown with Sweden knowing that either Russia or Croatia lie in store at the semi-final stage.
Shearer added on what can be achieved from here: “What next? Well, anything is possible, but I am still reluctant to think beyond our quarter-final with Sweden, because this World Cup has been so ridiculously unpredictable until now.
“But, whatever happens in Samara on Saturday, this tournament has already been a successful one from England's point of view.
“We have won a knockout game for the first time since 2006, and also won our first ever World Cup penalty shootout.
“Those are already real achievements for Gareth's young side to take away from Russia, but now the fans want more, and I know the England players will be the same.”