Can you hear it? Cutting through the unusually humid air during a British heatwave, the sound of a nation beginning to believe: ‘It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming…’

It’s the day after an historic victory for England – our first ever World Cup penalty shootout win, our first knockout round victory in 12 years and only our third in 28 years. Who knows what will happen in the quarter final against Sweden, but in a way I don’t think it matters. England have performed well, reached their pre-tournament target and this World Cup has bought far more joy than just Harry’s penalties or Gareth’s waistcoats.

Whether England win it or not, here are three feel-good stories that will make you love this World Cup.  

What a load of rubbish

When England play we’re used to bemoaning the rubbish during the match. But after Japan’s 2-1 victory against Colombia, the fans turned their attention to the stands, staying behind to give the stadium a spring clean. With environmental campaigners predicting that World Cup visitors will produce 3kg of plastic waste each, it was inspiring to see fans take the time to collect bottles for recycling. We shouldn’t be surprised – we already know about the Japanese town Kamikatsu, making strides towards zero waste. They have 34 categories for recycling, and their upcycling crafts are creating new business ventures for a lot of people.

World in Union

It’s not something I’ve experienced in my lifetime, but it seems a country is uniting behind their football team; street parties, BBQs, flags hanging from lamposts, strangers offering each other post-match analysis. Even if my neighbour is supporting a different country from me, the World Cup is giving us something to talk about together and form a new connection. I’m gaining new friends as we chat about bad ref decisions, incredible goals and penalty shoot outs.

Could this World Cup go someway to repairing some of the division we’ve felt in the aftermath of political campaigns over the last few years? It’s not just national unity – when I see stadium crowd shots on TV I spot a myriad of different flags, colours and allegiances, lovers of the beautiful game discarding boundaries and borders.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find even more stories, like the Colombia fan help his blind friend watch their game, or the Mexico and Colombia fans lifting an Egyptian man in a wheelchair so he could see above the crowds.

Hope Wins

At the 2016 Olympics we saw a team of refugees compete under the Olympic flag. Their stories of overcoming adversity were inspiring, and you’ll uncover similar stories at the World Cup. You can read more about players like Victor Moses and Xherdan Shaqiri, and away from Russia there are more uplifting stories of football bringing hope to Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. Closer to home, Manchester hosted a Refugee World Cup tournament, not for gold or glory, but to celebrate safety and sanctuary.

So even if for any crazy reason England don’t win the World Cup, there’s still loads of reasons to love it!