Fabio Capello is convinced England's victory over Slovenia yesterday will set them free. England have begun preparations for Sunday's eagerly awaited FIFA World Cup clash with Germany buoyed by finally breaking the chains that constrained them in their first two outings of the tournament.
Capello was acutely concerned about the fear factor building up around his squad prior to a game which would have been their last had the result gone against them. Desperate for a solution, the Italian even offered his players the option of a beer the night before the game, which was amazing itself given the professionalism for which the 64-year-old is noted.
As it turned out, the option was not taken up. But it showed how keenly Capello was trying to get the England players to relax. And, having finally released the tension, he is confident they can now perform to the maximum of their abilities.
"I know these players," he said. "They needed this victory. The victory will be important because I have always felt they can play against any team here and I now am sure the performance will always be at that level."
The main gripe would be the wasted chances that mounted up alarmingly either side of the interval and left England vulnerable to a late Slovenian rally. It almost happened too, with John Terry and Glen Johnson having to get in the way of goalbound shots that would have knocked the Three Lions out.
The victory will be important because I have always felt they can play against any team here and I now am sure the performance will always be at that level.
Capello admitted it was a nervous time. But he was more concerned about creating opportunities than actually taking them. "We created a lot of chances to score and in future I hope we will get more," he said. "But, for me, it's not important to score a lot. Sure, it wasn't good for my heart in the last few minutes but the really important thing is to create the chances."
Capello is presumably working to the belief that there is too much firepower within England's ranks for his side to stay becalmed for long. He will certainly hope that statement is true of Wayne Rooney, who has appeared unsettled throughout the tournament so far and was replaced by Joe Cole towards the end after taking another kick on the ankle he injured in April.
Given it is inconceivable that Capello would contemplate leaving Rooney out, few changes are expected against Germany, with James Milner doing more than enough to keep his place. Substituted after only half an hour of the opening game, the Aston Villa man might have feared his contribution in South Africa was at an end. But the 24-year-old has always been one of Capello's favourites and was the go-to man when the Italian decided he wanted more solidity on the right than Aaron Lennon could provide.
"I decided on Milner because we needed the extra movement when we didn't have the ball," said Capello. "He created space for Glen Johnson and, overall, played very well." Milner combined with Jermain Defoe to provide the crucial first-half winner.
Defoe was also repaying the faith Capello had invested in him by leaving out Emile Heskey. "You have to take into account which defenders are on the other side," said Capello. "I chose Defoe because he has trained very well. He is in good form at this moment and, in front of goal, he is very important."
Now the standard has been set and the talent at Capello's disposal is beginning to shine. The shame is it took so long. With just one more goal in any of the three group games, England would now be looking ahead to an encounter with Ghana barely 15 minutes from their training base and then a quarter-final with either Uruguay or South Korea.
Instead, Germany have to be crossed. Then either Argentina or Mexico, with the possibility of Spain as well should England reach the last four. It is a tricky journey now, although Capello is starting to feel optimistic again.
"We did really very well in every area of the pitch," said Capello. "The positions we took up were very good. We won back the ball and played quickly. The passing was really dangerous and we switched the ball quickly. In the other games we lost the ball a lot but this time we managed to keep hold of it. Overall I am very happy."