IT’S finally here.

A year later than planned – thanks a lot Covid – the Euros get underway and the nation will be gripped by football fever once more.

The World Cup in 2018 seems like a lifetime ago but for me and many others, it was up there among my best footballing memories.

The sun was shining, the beer was flying and England shocked us all by getting to the semi-finals before losing to Croatia.

That summer served as a true demonstration of how sport can bring people together and after the 15 months we’ve had, the Euros could be just the tonic we need.

This time it’s different, though. Three years ago, England hoped. Now, England expects.

Gareth Southgate has assembled a team full of young and vibrant attacking talent in support of the world-class Harry Kane.

For months now, fans and pundits alike have been surmising ways of which all three of Chelsea’s Mason Mount, Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish can be accommodated in the same starting XI.

There are ways it can be done and if Southgate goes down that road, we are certainly in for some excitement – but will we be able to keep the back door closed if so?

England manager Gareth Southgate has several selection headaches ahead of Sundays opener against Croatia. Picture by PA Wire

England manager Gareth Southgate has several selection headaches ahead of Sunday's opener against Croatia. Picture by PA Wire

Doubts over Harry Maguire’s fitness will affect the make-up of the defence and with it, the remainder of the team.

It appears unlikely he will be fit for the opener against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday and so it looks like England will play with three central defenders – likely Kyle Walker (a right back by trade), John Stones and Tyrone Mings.

It is not exactly a first-choice defence – a back four with Stones and Maguire at its heart surely is – and given that, I believe Southgate will want to give them as much protection as possible by playing a more conservative midfield.

Declan Rice is a certain starter and if one of Jordan Henderson – who has fitness doubts of his own – Kalvin Phillips or Jude Bellingham plays alongside him, it will likely mean one of Mount, Grealish or Foden has to make way.

Either way, the Three Lions will have the Wembley crowd behind them and should be favourites to open up with a win against an experienced and wily Croatian outfit.

England are joint-favourites with the bookies to go all the way, which surprised me a little bit.

We have the talent to do so and all but one of our games would be played on home soil if we win Group D which also contains Scotland and the Czech Republic.

But I look at other teams and think there’s a couple better placed.

France are clear favourites for me due to their impressive squad depth, Portugal will be very strong, Italy are in fine form and Germany are flying worryingly under the radar.

Despite all that, though, come 2pm on Sunday we will flood the pubs and beer gardens (in a Covid safe manner of course) to start what could be an unforgettable summer.

Is it coming home? We’re about to find out.

The team who wins Euro 2020 will lift the Henri Delaunay Cup. Picture by PA Wire

The team who wins Euro 2020 will lift the Henri Delaunay Cup. Picture by PA Wire