England players seem happier and more grounded – and much of the credit goes to psychologist Pippa Grange. What can the team’s approach teach us all about facing fear and failure?

This week, the England midfielder Dele Alli was asked if he was nervous about the big tests up ahead: first, of course, the team’s semi-final against Croatia on Wednesday. “Excited, not nervous,” he replied. His apparent happiness and confidence reflected an England team that seems transformed from previous incarnations. Where once it was stuffed with entitled, surly stars, burdened with the weight of history and the pressure of expectations, it now comes across as a hungry, humble team, playing with lightness and joy.

“We’ve spoken to the players about writing their own stories,” said the manager, Gareth Southgate, after the team beat Colombia in an unprecedentedly victorious (for England) penalty shootout. “Tonight they showed they don’t have to conform to what’s gone before. They have created their own history … We always have to believe in what is possible in life and not be hindered by history or expectations.”

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