ON the eve of England’s Euro 2020 final against Italy there was scepticism - and some optimism - about the effect football was having on the UK.

The Daily Mail

Janet Street-Porter said she didn’t understand the mad devotion to football.

“According to fans, pundits and every bloke in the pub in the last 24 hours - football is NOT JUST A GAME,” she said. “As played by Harry Kane and his men, it’s got magical powers to sort out everything that’s grim about life as we face a third wave of Covid and potentially half a million people will soon be in isolation.”

She said after months of being careful and cautious, a vast army of (mostly) men decided to throw caution to the winds and sod the consequences.

“There is one rule for the Holy Sport of Football, and another for the mums and dads who can’t go to sports days and those in care homes still limited to few visitors. Theatres forced to close as one cast member tests positive.

“Football occupies pole position in the nation’s consciousness. If we win, somehow, we’ll all feel better. But will we?”

The Daily Express

Mark Piggott said that, again and again, the England team has delivered – on and off the pitch.

“Whatever your views on Rashford’s free school meals campaign, Sterling’s work combatting racism, or kneeling in support of BLM – the idea, not the organisation – it cannot be denied that this is a very different England team, reflecting a changing nation,” he said. “Out go the WAGs, the sex scandals, the boozy bust-ups; in come new priorities, new ways of performing – a new form of patriotism. Much of the credit for the team’s transformation must go to manager Gareth Southgate, whose story of redemption after his shoot-out agony in 1996 is so compelling.”

He said fans were cheering on one of the most multi-racial teams on Earth.

“People are smiling on the streets again, the pubs are open, the uplifting refrain of “Sweet Caroline” is everywhere and the future seems brighter than it has in many months, perhaps years. For that, we should be thankful – to each other, and of course to our brilliant team.”

The Guardian

Joseph Harker asked how you could not love the current England team.

“As well as their footballing prowess, they’ve shown moral leadership and social awareness, taking positions on poverty, racism, LGBT rights and multiculturalism,” he said.

But he warned about glorifying a ‘glowing role-model of inclusion for us all to feel warm about.’

“Over the decades I’ve heard this so many times at major sporting occasions, and every time it falls flat as soon as the celebrations and/or commiserations are over,” he said. “Already, on social media, those sentiments are appearing: we’re out of Europe, and now we rule Europe. I dread to think what will happen if England actually win on Sunday. Gareth, Raheem, Marcus: I totally love what you’re doing and what you stand for. But England just isn’t ready for you.”