EURO 2008, failed to qualify. World Cup 2010, scraped through the group despite failing to beat either the United States or Algeria. Euro 2012, topped the group, but drew with France and conceded two goals to Sweden. World Cup 2014, out before the final group game after losing both of the opening two matches. Euro 2016, finished second in the group behind Wales after failing to beat either Russia or Slovakia. World Cup 2018, runners-up in the group after losing to Belgium.

Six major tournaments, five thoroughly underwhelming English performances in the group stage plus a competition when they were so bad they weren’t even there. The exception, perhaps, is the last World Cup, when the group defeat to Belgium came with a much-changed side. Even then, though, England only had to beat Tunisia and Panama to qualify.

Over the last day or so, a fallacy seems to have been created whereby England have become a side that waltz through the group stages of European Championships and World Cups before coming unstuck in the knockout stages of the tournament. The latter half of that description undoubtedly rings true. But the first part simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

Finishing top of a tournament group with seven points from nine, and without conceding a goal, is not something that any England team has routinely achieved in the past. So, while it is right to raise concerns about the progress of Gareth Southgate’s side at Euro 2020 to this point, some of the histrionics that have played out over the last 24 hours have been utterly ridiculous.

‘Sack Southgate, he doesn’t know what he’s doing’. Well, given his side have just won their group, he clearly does. ‘England are an embarrassment, they’re the worst team in the tournament’. Try telling that to Scotland, who celebrated so wildly after last Friday’s goalless draw, but who will not be involved in the last 16. ‘I’ve never seen an England team playing less exciting football’. Did you watch the goalless draw with Algeria in Cape Town or the 0-0 draw with Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte?

Clearly, England’s attacking has not been as thrilling as might have been hoped, and as they head into the last 16, they are going to have to become sharper and more effective in the final third. For all that he showed minor signs of life on Tuesday, getting Harry Kane firing on all cylinders again remains a key challenge.

There was a definite overall improvement in the tempo of England’s attacking for the opening half-hour of the Czech game though, with the selection of Bukayo Saka adding some pace and energy in the wide positions and the presence of Jack Grealish furnishing Southgate’s side with a creative presence capable of turning the Czech defence and threading balls beyond the back four.

It is at the other end of the pitch where England have been most impressive though, a scenario that did not look particularly likely prior to the start of the tournament. It is not just that England have not conceded a goal in their opening three matches, what has been particularly impressive about their passage through the group stage is the fact that they have barely passed up even a chance over the course of three games

Of course, the attacking limitations of Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic must be taken into account, but the English defence has still been remarkably solid. Jordan Pickford’s club form was a major concern for most of last season, but the Wearsider has not put a foot wrong so far. John Stones has been equally excellent, Tyrone Mings stepped up superbly when required in the opening two matches and a fit-again Harry Maguire returned on Tuesday night to mark the in-form Patrik Schick out of the game. Southgate’s defensive-midfield double pivot might not be the most popular tactical ploy, but it provides England with a level of tactical security that could be crucial on Tuesday.

While attacks might dazzle in the group stages, more often than not, it is defences that determine the outcome of the key knockout games. On that score, England head into the last-16 in good shape.