Not since Italia 90 had a nation connected with an England team like this.
From the tears of Gazza to Bobby Robson consoling heartbroken players, fans up and down the country united and grieved together in such emotion that it became more synonymous than the actual football.
2018 feels similar. A last gasp winner against Tunisia, six of the best against Panama and an emphatic end to the penalty shoot-out hoodoo are lifelong memories, yet the renaissance with the soul of English football overrode all of that.
The golden generation dazzled on occasions yet ignorance, admitted by Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, held them back.
The South African campaign optimised the problem. Boredom ensued at the Bafokeng training ground with Fabio Capello installing an iron rod discipline over the players, creating a toxic atmosphere.
When John Terry had enough he’d called a team meeting to get his feelings off his chest. No one spoke. Actions off the pitch reflected to misery on it.
Fast forward eight years and look at the difference.
The fact that how Gareth Southgate won the job itself is the most controversial aspect of his England managerial career speaks volumes of his leadership qualities.
And while dramatically improving waistcoast fashion is an achievement, it’s the cultural change, to overcome domestic rivalries and create real difference, which Southgate should be lauded for.
Playing darts with the media, riding inflatable ponies and unicorns in a swimming pool and chucking plastic chickens around training didn’t aid tactics, but relaxing the squad in that way was vital towards the sufficient mental strength needed for a month long tournament.
Southgate encouraged players to talk openly about their lives. Danny Rose became emboldened to reveal his depression, Raheem Sterling found courage to talk about a challenging childhood and Harry Maguire told the tale of how he regularly goes back to his old school to sign autographs.
So often the tune of ‘you’re one of our own’ is sung towards youth products on the domestic stage, but you wouldn’t have gone far wrong to apply it to every England player in Russia.
A young squad will feel disappointed that they crashed out at the semi-final stage but unlike Italia 90 those tears of devastation have transpired to be cheers of opportunism.
The vibrant French side will be seen as a template to match on the pitch, with strength, pace and unpredictability the characteristics needed to be successful in 2022.
England have that but need to master it. Cultural change is one thing but producing consistent creative talent to perform on the biggest platform is quite another.
And Southgate will be the first to tell you that there’s still a long way to go.
Photo source: Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro) [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons