Sports reporter Matt Turner pens his latest 'World Cup Corner' column...

Okay hands up, who thought we’d be sat here about to watch England in a World Cup semi-final tonight?

Nope, me neither.

Those who know me will know I am a bit of an optimist, but even I was sceptical about how this young, inexperienced England squad with question marks over every area of the field except attack could be so successful.

Still, they have and this is a World Cup that will live long in the memory for generations of football fans.

Whether it’s watching games at home, in pubs or at vast gatherings in front of big screens like the ones in Golden Square and at Postern Gate, we have all felt involved on this incredible ride.

For the best summer of football in my lifetime, I have one man to thank more than most: Gareth Southgate.

When this quiet, unassuming man was appointed to one of the most high-pressure jobs in world football, I will admit to fearing for the future – both for Southgate and the team.

To give the top job in the English game to a man whose limited managerial experience saw him relegated from the Premier Division with Middlesbrough seemed an excessively bold move.

Since then, though, his quiet revolution has been winning more fans as it has gone along, culminating in a crescendo of public support this summer.

What strikes me most about Southgate is that he seems such an open and likeable character. That’s certainly the impression I’ve got from watching his demeanour in Russia.

He’s never sought to hide his players or himself away from the media or the fans and for that, he has gained respect and admiration on both sides.

He has got this young team playing with all the confidence in the world and we can only hope this continues once they return from Russia.

When they do reach English soil again, I hope they are given the most rapturous welcome by the public.

You only have to look at the TV viewing figures to see how many hearts this team have captured.

Around 20 million people watched the win over Sweden on Saturday, and that’s not including the aforementioned pubs and big screens.

When you add those into the equation, I do not think I would be far wrong in estimating that more than half of the country watched the game.

At a time when the country could not be more divided politically, this group of players – a “band of brothers” as captain Harry Kane called them – has united us all behind them.

Whatever happens tonight, I will be one proud England fan afterwards.