I've risked major mockery in the last month for asserting confidently amongst friends that England are different this time around, that we can match the fluent approach play of more successful nations, because this time we have the personnel. After watching our 3-0 snooze-fest against Peru, I stand by this marginally fantastical statement.
Andy Carroll's reputation has suffered since Euro 2012 because of his scarcely-mentioned £35m transfer to Liverpool. He will be forever labelled as an 'expensive flop' and be ridiculed by part-time football fans for a cheap laugh because he couldn't justify a ludicrous price tag that he never set himself.
Under-21 football is less about the results and more about developing the players and playing football in a way that should mirror a bigger vision for football in the country. Stuart Pearce's tenure has not only failed to deliver results, but it has provided no vision, no hope and no entertainment for those brave enough to watch.
Whatever the route, reds were flocking to the Spanish capital in numbers many reckoned hadn't been matched since the semi-final against Milan in 2005. It's not hard to see why. As Jose Mourinho put it, it was the tie the whole world was waiting for. Laden with sub-plot, it pitched together the world's most glamorous clubs, and its two best managers.