England manager Roy Hodgson has praised his squad's burgeoning team spirit as they prepare for the challenge of Sunday's UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-final showdown with Italy.
Hodgson and his side returned to their training base in southern Poland with a mounting sense of excitement after clinching first place in Group D ahead of France thanks to a 1-0 win over Ukraine.
After the celebrity circus of the David Beckham era and the disappointing 2010 FIFA World Cup™ campaign, England have rediscovered virtues once taken for granted - teamwork, unrelenting commitment and unstinting selflessness.
It has left the English with a renewed sense of belief as they prepare for the knockout rounds, and Hodgson could not be happier. While Hodgson readily admits England's squad still contains its fair share of egos, he believes a clarity of purpose has helped forge a tighter group.
"I don't think there are any words necessarily that have any magic effect," Hodgson said. "I think it's just making certain that everybody realises - as they do - that if you want to be successful as a team you have to perform to your ability and trust the people around you to perform to theirs.
I've been very happy with the way these players have really worked for each other and seeing the way they are after the games.
"I think any national team is going to have players with egos - that's normal and I think you want that as well because it's the player with the ego who is often the good player, the player who makes the difference."
Hodgson believes England's newly-found unity is reflected by the obvious delight shown by each member of the squad after goals have been scored and victories achieved. "I've been very happy with the way these players have really worked for each other and seeing the way they are after the games, and seeing the way they congratulate each other. That's something I've got to be pleased about and something to keep working on," Hodgson said.
Defensive midfielder Scott Parker, whose tireless spoiling embodies England's team ethic, said England's unity could carry the side "a long way". "Everyone talks about Spain and how great they are at passing the ball. Not every team is as good as Spain, that's the reality," Parker told the FA.com.
"To think we are all of a sudden are going to turn into that is not what it's going to be. We are what we are, we're committed, we've got a good base, a good bunch of lads and with that you can go a long way."