When England were digesting their shock Euro 2016 exit to Iceland in the round of 16, few would have pointed to Gareth Southgate as the most likely man to lead the team's resurgence.
The former defender was the face of English failure for his penalty shootout miss against Germany at Euro 96 while his coaching career did not promise much after relegation with Middlesbrough and a poor run with England's U21 side.
Indeed, he got the top job by accident, stepping into the role on a temporary basis when Sam Allardyce was sacked by the FA after a newspaper sting. His eventual appointment was greeted with little enthusiasm by the English press.
The transformation has therefore been remarkable after Southgate guided England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the Euro 2020 final, with Sunday's showdown against Italy the country's most anticipated game since the 1966 World Cup final.
Sky Sports' Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher look ahead to the encounter with Italy and reflect on how Southgate has captured the nation's hearts. Is football really coming home?
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- Redknapp: How England can beat Italy
- Merson says: Italy will be worried about England
- England notebook: Southgate facing his biggest challenge
Neville: Mesmerising watching England
Sky Sports' Gary Neville:
"I've watched England many times over the last 10 years and I'm normally quite cold about football. Sometimes I'll get a bit worked up about Manchester United games, but I watched the England vs Germany game last Tuesday and I felt quite emotional during that match.
"Maybe it was just the fact that 25 years ago I was sat there in the crowd. I didn't play in the semi-final because I was suspended and watching the team I was thinking about how many times we'd come out on the wrong side of these types of matches and how many times it is us that have the bad headlines the morning after.
"And then just seeing those lads overcome Germany last week, I did feel quite emotional. Then on Wednesday night before the game it was honestly mesmerising. It was spine-tingling being in that stadium.
"I grew up adoring Manchester United and loved playing for England. So, for me, I always loved my country. I loved playing for England but never really got to the point whereby it gripped me like this has in the last seven to 10 days.
"I loved watching the team in Russia, but this is obviously completely different being in England. It's so special, especially with the fans not being in the stadiums in the last 18 months.
"I just think the way the team and the players have conducted themselves and the way in which they have behaved over a period of time now and performed.
"It's not just their performances, though. On Wednesday night, like everyone else, I was absolutely overjoyed and delighted that we won but it actually wasn't the most important thing.
"It's the fact I genuinely trust the manager that we've got. I genuinely think the players are a good bunch of lads who love playing for England, who have removed all the cynicism and cliques that I was part of for many years with England.
"So, credit to them. They deserved what they got because of the way in which they have handled themselves. Not just on the pitch, but off the pitch as well."
Sterling key to England's quest for glory
"I think Raheem Sterling is getting towards being player of the tournament. About four or five days ago, I thought it would be Jordan Pickford. Maybe it's because, at times, I've been critical of Pickford during the season but I thought he'd been exceptional in terms of the clean sheets that we'd kept.
"Luke Shaw has been outstanding, Kyle Walker has been absolutely brilliant, Kalvin Phillips has been amazing in central midfield but you'd have to say now with what Sterling did against Denmark, he definitely jumps in front of those if he wasn't there before.
"He was too good for them. That's an old-fashioned saying that my dad used to say but Raheem Sterling was just too good for them.
"And somehow on Sunday we've got to find a way to draw Chiellini and Bonucci out so we can get Sterling in that space in and around them. He's got to be the key because those two Italian defenders are absolutely brilliant.
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"They will half fancy Harry Kane in terms of the physicality of it and because Harry is not the quickest. So, Harry will have to be clever on Sunday against Italy.
"Sterling, I'm sure if he can draw one or two of those defenders out of their position by four of five yards. We saw the goal Spain scored where Chiellini was just drawn out with a one-two and Sterling could be absolutely key on Sunday.
"He's the only one who it feels like he hasn't been rested. It feels like he's played every single minute even though he has come off in a game.
"It will be interesting on Sunday. Sterling has been absolutely outstanding. He was brilliant against Denmark and just tore them to shreds time and time again."
'Italy's winning mentality will be tough to crack'
Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher:
"England will be encouraged by Italy's semi-final performance against Spain, but I don't think they will be naïve enough to just look at that game. You could look at the game against Belgium and look how impressive they were as well.
"They were always going to be second in the possession stats against Spain. It was always going to happen.
"Spain gave a great performance, no doubt, but I always just felt Italy would win. I felt Spain's goalkeeper may just let them down whereas Gianluigi Donnarumma is a huge plus point for Italy along with the two centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
"Spain were unlucky, there is no doubt about that, but it goes back to my point about teams getting through tough moments, tough games and coming through adversity. Italy have done that a couple of times so there is a real winning mentality with the unbeaten run that they are on.
"It will be a really tough game for England. They are the two best teams of the tournament. It will be a really tight game and I think England will be analysing Italy's really good performances more than the poor ones to see how tough it could be."
"I think it will be a very tight game. I think it may go to penalties and England come out victorious.
"We have done a lot of work on penalties, so let's not let that go to waste! I don't think there will be too many goals in the game. Italy are very strong defensively, so are England.
"I think it will be 1-1 and then go to penalties.
"I think it's the right final. I think they have been the two most impressive teams in this competition - and winner takes all on Sunday."