Gareth Southgate insists the best teams in the world now hold no fears for England.
The Three Lions boss believes his brash young side refuse to be burdened by the weight of expectation that has crushed the golden generations of England’s past.
Since reaching the Word Cup semi-finals two years ago, Southgate’s men have finished third in the inaugural Nations League and beaten both Spain and Belgium.
England face the brilliant Belgians again in Leuven on Sunday – and their boss feels they must beat the team ranked No 1 in the world again if they are to progress to next year’s Nations League finals.
Southgate thinks they are up for the challenge after inheriting a squad four years ago that had been humiliated by Iceland at Euro 2016.
He said: “When we first took over we said to the players that we were coming in on the back of the defeat against Iceland and a huge amount of criticism.
“There wasn’t a great deal of enjoyment and people weren’t really thinking about what was possible, but about what might go wrong.
“We had to think about what we might be able to achieve.
“The players of today should not be burdened by what happened in my generation or generations since.
“They’ve just got to enjoy their football.
“They’ve had great experiences of winning, they’ve seen what progressing to a World Cup semi-final feels like and had great experience getting to the semi-finals of the Nations League when we took 20,000-plus fans to Portugal.
“They’ve had some brilliant feelings and that creates a positive narrative.
“As a coaching staff we want them to really go for it – but not be naive to think that they can just go and play and everything will be fine.
“In terms of the mindset, it has to be one of challenge rather than being fearful.
“That’s what the players want – and it’s what we have.”
England’s 2-1 victory over Roberto Martinez’s men at Wembley last month was only Belgium’s second defeat in 29 games.
But after picking up just one point from two games against Denmark, Southgate knows his team have absolutely no room for error.
He added: “If you look at history we haven’t been a country that beats the big teams – and that’s is the great challenge for us.
“There have been very few wins against the big nations in tournaments.
“And even in qualifying, where I could go back to ’98 when we qualified for the World Cup, Italy beat us at Wembley.
“The perception that we have been an outstanding nation doesn’t tally with the results over the years, so this is a great opportunity for this team .
“Before the World Cup, we lost in France and Germany and had draws with Belgium and Germany at Wembley.
“We weren’t able to nail the big teams.
“Since the World Cup we had the win in Spain, a draw and win against Croatia and now the win over Belgium.
Who will win between England and Belgium? Have your say below.
“We are starting to get those results, but to be a really top team you have to do that consistently.
“It’s not an easy one because there are some fantastic teams out there but it’s not something we are fearful of.”
West Ham’s Declan Rice is set to start as a midfield anchor alongside Jordan Henderson in a bid to neutralise a Belgium side that will have Kevin De Bruyne pulling the strings following his recovery from an ankle knock.
Harry Kane will skipper the side as he wins his 50th cap and is likely to be partnered in attack by Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho.