Like every plot in the Mission Impossible franchise, England’s quest to win the Women’s World Cup for the first time might feel a little implausible given the strength of competition and being on the difficult side of the draw.

It is a mission, though, that the squad have had no hesitation in accepting. We can only hope they do not self-destruct.

The fallout from the dispute over bonus payments has left a sour taste. The players and the Football Association have moved in the last few days to reassure everyone that they will not be distracted, that they can still be united in the pursuit of football’s ultimate prize. We are about to find out whether that is true.

It is a monumental challenge. England are likely to have Olympic champions Canada, hosts Australia, a dangerous Brazil or their old nemesis Germany awaiting them in the last 16 or the quarter-finals. The United States, four-time Women’s World Cup winners and the team who beat England in the semi-finals in Lyon four years ago, could await them if they make it to the final.

The Lionesses will need luck, as well as skill, on their side. Tournament football can be cruel, sudden-death football in the knockout rounds is often decided on the finest of margins – a deflection, an offside decision, an injury. Nothing is guaranteed but, ahead of their opening game against Haiti on Saturday, we know England have as realistic a chance of lifting the trophy as anyone.

Speak to the players privately or publicly, talk to those with inside knowledge of the camp and tournament preparations, and they are confident. This is a team who have reached at least the semi-finals of every major tournament stretching back to 2015. The Lionesses are feared. They are respected, and, more importantly, they are consistently good under pressure.

Nobody will want to face Sarina Wiegman’s side in the knockout rounds. They are the reigning European champions and there is a persuasive argument that they also have the best manager in the international game in Wiegman. She has won the Euros twice, with Netherlands and England, and also took the Dutch to the World Cup final in 2019.

It was not until her 31st game as manager that the Lionesses suffered a defeat – Australia inflicted that first loss in April. It was a shock, but in truth performances had not been nearly as impressive or commanding for a while. Teams had started to work out a plan to nullify the Lionesses, to frustrate them and expose them. The sting of a defeat hopefully sharpened minds and provoked solutions.

England have lost three of their best players to injury – Leah Willamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby – and have waved two of their most experienced players, Ellen White and Jill Scott, into retirement.

Yes, it is a depleted squad, with a new generation of younger players filling the gaps. But this is their moment, their opportunity to shine. They are good enough. It is just about delivering when it matters, of staying calm, as they did when losing 1-0 to Spain with fewer than 10 minutes to play in their Euros quarter-final last year. Fear stalked them then – the fear of failure, of letting everybody down – but they turned the game around to win 2-1 in extra time.

They did the same in the final in front of a capacity crowd at Wembley, when Germany had equalised and were taking control. England fought their way back and the Germans wilted in extra time, Chloe Kelly’s goal breaking their spirit as well as their hearts.

That is what the Lionesses are all about. These players are trailblazers, influencers and role models. They are also highly talented and highly motivated athletes who will not shirk any element of the challenge in front of them.

No England team have been European and world champions at the same time. Only Germany have done it before in the women’s game. That shows the scale of the achievement if they have the audacity to pull it off.

The nation is rightly proud of them after winning the Euros. They are already assured of their place in history. But win the World Cup and it will resonate for decades, not years. It would be – without resorting to hyperbole – the stuff of legend.

The FA deserves huge credit for the investment and improvements it has brought to women’s football in this country. What started out as a bold ambition, has turned into a wonderful reality.

The Lionesses have already shattered so many glass ceilings; there is just one more left for them to break through. To win a World Cup is the hardest mission of all, so hold on tight.

It is going to be stressful, it is going to be tense and it is going to be hard, but it is mission possible as far as the players and coaching staff are concerned. After everything they have done over the past eight years, there is no reason not to believe them.