They've always thought themselves to be different, and now they believe everything else will be different too.
On a craggy and a tetchy night in Moscow, that old, uniquely righteous English exceptionalism bubbled to the surface on ITV.
"The referee is dealing with two different cultures" bellowed Clive Tyldesley in praise of the American referee as he was hectored by the squabbling Colombians. Virtually everyone on ITV was affronted by the Colombian antics: Gary Neville shouted "numpty" at the coach who barged Raheem Sterling at half-time; Mark Pougatch derided Colombia's "provocation and intimidation" and cited an "evil grin" on the face of the Colombian coach who barged Sterling; Ian Wright stressed the need to rise above it.
How different the football cultures are is debatable, but that was conveniently ignored when duty called.
Harry Maguire's blatant dive for a penalty was excused by Tyldsley as "potentially being toe-to-toe", while Jordan Henderson's first-half histrionics didn't exactly get the "pathetic" Neymar treatment. "I've criticised England teams for being naive in the past...Henderson probably didn't need to go down there", fudged Gary Neville, not so much asking as handing viewers their reading glasses before shoving them between the lines.
Colombia did implode for a period in the second half, encapsulated by their captain and goalscorer running rings around the referee in a Tony Soprano-style rage, literally becoming an Eddying Falcao.
Nonetheless, Colombia's late equaliser brought all those weary portents of tournament exits of old, and a kind of grim acceptance that, for all of their efforts to imagine otherwise, this different England team playing in different style in a different formation under a different kind of manager were going out in the same old way.
"Just when you thought you'd seen it all with England" sighed Tyldsley in his oddly impervious-to-irony style.
As penalties loomed, Ian Wright was oddly serene, stressing that he had seen all of this before. Mark Pougatch was more ebullient, citing Alf Ramsey's words at full-time in the '66 World Cup final, that "you've won it first, now go and win it again".
Then the penalties unfolded, and England were struck by what they had either feared to believe or never truly believed all along: perhaps this is different after all. Ian Wright couldn't bear to watch the shoot-out in studio, pre-emptively consoled by Lee Dixon.
But when Eric Dier scored with arguably England's worst spot-kick of the night, Wright leaped into the air and cast off his glasses with the frantic zeal of the converted.
Blessed are those who believed and didn't even need to see, etc.
Love this country ❤️ Love this team ??? @GNev2 @LeeDixon2 @itvfootball pic.twitter.com/ZYzftSf96C
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) July 3, 2018
Gary Neville even went so far as stopping to whimsy, picking up and sporting Wright's discarded glasses as if to say, 'all changed, changed utterly; a terrible banter has been born". Or something like that.
Wright sounded on the verge of tears as Neville pandered to the competitor within him. "We suffered that too much. We deserved that. It's brilliant to see the opposition suffer for once". Wright promised that he wouldn't get too carried away, before saying immediately that "we needed that as a nation".
England now face Sweden for a place in the last four of the World Cup, with either Russia or Croatia awaiting in the semi-finals. They will never have a better chance of getting to a World Cup final, and the world must now face this reality.
Up to now, England embraced a certain level of hype under the cosmic compromise that this tournament might be different. Winning a penalty shoot-out - having been the first to miss in the shootout - is conclusive proof that things are indeed different this time around.
With Dier's winning penalty, the last tethers of inhibition strapped around English Hype have been loosened and it's about to soar like never before. English fans and pundits can be confident now in allowing their dreams to run amok having conquered their incubus and navigated The Tough Bit Of The Easy Side Of The Draw.
"England are contenders again, bring it on!" were Tyldsley's valedictory words.
They know what they are doing, so what are we going to do? How do we respond to that fact that England are going to come back from Russia feeling good about themselves?
Having troublingly declared pre-watershed that "football's coming home, baby" in reference to The Easy Side Of The Draw, Eamon Dunphy ended his contribution on RTE by saying that nobody would begrudge them their victory.
We're not sure that things are that different.
- The "love train" is how Glenn Hoddle described the English set up on the corner that led to the awarding of the penalty. Yuck.
- Dunphy noted that were England to make it to the final, "it would be a case of Arise, Sir Gareth".
- This column was also a big fan of Dunphy's description of Colombian playmaker Quintero: "He wants to be a rapper, which is good for a playmaker". For some reason,we don't think he'd have said that in the presence of Giles.
- ITV took the decision to take Ryan Giggs out of studio and not replace him, presumably finding the drying of paint on the newly-visible wall more entertaining.
- Why did we get so many shots of that "Kane Score A Goal" banner and none of Maradona?
Tweets of the Day
Straight out of Pro Evo 3 pic.twitter.com/pUrDVwQdm2
— EAMO (@EamoV1) July 3, 2018
Shakira’s hips may be the only honest thing about Colombia
— David Hendon (@davehendon) July 3, 2018
This game is a bit like Twitter.
— Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliew) July 3, 2018
Tell you what. All these ponces doing hipster gags and smart takes on this game right now. Fuck off back to Uni eh?
— Danny Baker (@prodnose) July 3, 2018
Trip, Trippier, Trippiest pic.twitter.com/8tmK7xGAzy
— David O'Doherty (@phlaimeaux) July 3, 2018
A triptych from David O'Doherty, in more ways than one.
See Also: Watch: World Class Jordan Pickford Save That No One Got To See