England reborn under classy Capello
This time there was to be nothing to rain on England's parade, no need to hide under a brolly. England qualified for the World Cup finals not just in style but with a fanfare too.
With a qualifying record that only Spain and the Netherlands could match, England went into the game against Croatia, their nemesis of 2007, with little to fear. While, under Steve McClaren, qualification was also in England's own control, this time they could play with freedom.
Fabio Capello has transformed a squad which had looked more suited to Sunday League football into one which looks genuinely capable of making an impression in South Africa. Confidence, organisation, spirit and belief now rampage through a group which has hardly seen a massive overhaul in personnel.
Capello rarely left the touchline during the commanding 5-1 victory over a Croatia side which has arguably drifted so far backwards they would now struggle to beat a McClaren team. Arms folded, watching over his pupils like a schoolmaster, Capello exudes class without even having to move a muscle.
Following each pass and move intently, the Italian appears to be constantly assessing those he has entrusted with his plans.
Granted, McClaren had the worst possible luck with injuries - he was without Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand against the Croats in 2007 - but this performance was so far removed from that dire display that you have to feel Capello would have handled the situation far better.
There had been much debate about the form of Jermain Defoe and his inclusion in the starting line-up, but it was another Tottenham Hotspur player who stole the show. In the side in place of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Aaron Lennon produced the kind of performance from a right-winger which England have craved for so long.
The Croatian defence in unison had no answer to his pace and direct running; Josep Simunic's foul on the winger for the spot-kick could not have been clearer. That set the tone for a first half where Lennon made both goals - it was his superb cross to Steven Gerrard for the second goal - while he could have got on the scoresheet himself.
In fact, but for the performance of reserve goalkeeper Vedran Runje then Croatia would have been looking at a hiding before the interval. Runje certainly did not deserve the ignominy of a mis-kick for England's fifth from Wayne Rooney, though it must have raised a smile in both the households of Paul Robinson and Scott Carson.
Lennon must now reproduce that on a regular basis. With consistency and end product often a concern for the 22-year-old, he now has the opportunity to grow into international football playing in a side which will give him the licence to excel. It is his chance to take, just as Wright-Phillips has tried and failed to nail down the position.
No player in England's starting line-up can claim to have burst onto the scene since the Euro 2008 debacle, though Glen Johnson is certainly the most improved. That perhaps says enough about McClaren's tenure; Capello has been able to take essentially the same group of players and create an effective unit.
Granted, only three players from the starting line-up of 2007 were named this time: Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. But these are players who were accused of being at the heart of England's ills and now they work together like it comes naturally. That Gerrard and Lampard both scored twice, as England took their tally against Croatia to nine goals in two games, underlines their new-found stature and confidence.
In the past there have been concerns over the catcalls and boos from England fans; it was never going to be a problem after Lampard put England in front after just eight minutes.
This time England fans directed their ire at Eduardo following his dive in an Arsenal shirt against Celtic, but so seldom was he on the ball that it was restricted to a minimum - largely after he bundled home the consolation. For once, England fans could enjoy a party atmosphere as the olés rang out. Maybe even the much-maligned Ashley Cole felt at home for once.
Gerrard was met by a standing ovation every time he jogged over to take a corner and those who had decided not to rush for the Underground also got to their feet to acknowledge the performance. Even cameo man David Beckham felt the occasion grand enough to remove his shirt and throw it to a fan in the crowd.
Though no-one would openly admit it, there is a lot to be gained from England losing some degree of their personal traits. Glorious failure has often been associated with the country, and if Capello has managed to remove that particular element of "Englishness" there is no reason to complain.
Playing Defoe instead of the powerful but wasteful Heskey will surely come with time. Capello's biggest task before next summer remains eradicating the clumsy errors at the back which continue to be of concern. Sort that out, and yet again England fans can get carried away once again. Only time will tell if Capello can banish that glorious failure to the past.
We have been here before and England have won nothing yet. That will not stop the fans who cheered a superb display from start to finish from dreaming.