Considering past experiences, England fans would be forgiven for having somewhat lowered expectations of their team's potential in this year's Euro 2012 Championship. That said, as a nation we have always been football-mad and never fail to show support for our team even when defeat seems inevitable.
In recent years that support has extended to social media platforms. Many now watch football games with a smartphone, tablet or laptop in hand, cheering our team on and engaging with like-minded Facebook friends and Twitter followers in real-time.
The group stage of Euro 2012 has highlighted just how supportive England fans are when compared with those of the French, Swedish and Ukrainian national teams. The England team's official Facebook page triumphed against the other teams in the group, as well as demonstrating best practice activity online by posting questions, comments and pictures both during and between the games.
The England-France match arguably garnered the most interesting results in terms of Facebook engagement. Going into the game, the England fans had a more pragmatic approach to the game, with more than half expecting England to lose, while 85% of French fans felt confident that their team would win. While England stayed ahead in terms of likes, comments and shares, France was more successful in energising its fan base, which grew 25% faster than the English fan base during the course of match.
In terms of spikes of activity, while both teams showed an increase in activity when they scored, England fans also spiked right at the beginning of the second half, perhaps suggesting "renewed optimism" in the team - an actual belief that we could have gone on to win.
When looking at the other group games, it's clear that football-based Facebook engagement is more of a priority for England fans than for other nations. During the match against Sweden, England grew its Facebook fan base by twice as much as the Swedes. Moreover, England had three times more new fans, twice as many comments, four times more likes on their posts, and ten times more fans sharing their posts - with a total of more than 60,000 'Likes' on posts during the game. By comparison, Sweden didn't even post during the match and took three hours to engage with fans after the game!
England beat France, Sweden and Ukraine hands-down in terms of fan engagement, posts and increasing the number of followers. While the England page started off with many more fans than the other Group D country teams, when the data is scaled to take page size into account, England's Facebook fans outperformed France by 10%, Ukraine by 38%, and Sweden by a whopping 120%. England didn't just win the group on the pitch, they also won it on Facebook.
While none of us can be sure of how England will perform in the quarter finals against Italy on Sunday, we can all be certain that the team will enjoy unrivalled levels of support from its enormous social fan base, especially with the renewed belief in Roy Hodgson's team. Who's to say what might happen on the pitch, but our chances on the Facebook field are very strong.