Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Sport | By Ruben Hill

England coach Gareth Southgate ready to face music of football history

England coach Gareth Southgate ready to face music of football history

England are one of the favourites to win the World Cup and you have to respect that. "We had discussions when he took over, we were on the same page straight away and that was the biggest thing, playing in a way we felt comfortable", he said. "Our preparation for the game has been identical".

"I'll speak to the forwards and tell them what I think but Dejan's a fantastic defender".

"The higher the level of opponent, if you press in a disorganised fashion, then you will get picked through, and we have got to be conscious of that".

Vida has quietly been one of the standout performers at this World Cup, and Croatia will be relieved he avoided a suspension for a rather ill-advised video published online after the win over Russian Federation.

VideoUS singer Justin Timberlake came out in support of the England football team ahead of their World Cup semi-final by leading a chant of "It's coming home" at his concert at the O2 Arena in London on Monday. "All the way through we have been one of the youngest teams in the tournament, the least experienced team, but we were never quite sure how far this team could go", said Southgate. "The age of the players, the improvement in the players, the hunger in the players has been apparent for everybody to see".

Given Croatia had extra time and penalties to recover from, England should come into the game fresher and they also have the edge in previous meetings, winning four of the seven encounters, including a 5-1 victory in their most recent match - a World Cup qualifier in 2009.

With an average squad age of just over 26 and fewer combined caps than any other participating team, Southgate knows there is still plenty of room for improvement.

"Yes, we're going into a semi-final but to us it's the next step along the journey". We are purely focusing on ourselves and what we want to do as a team and the collective is really the most important thing.

"We are not putting more pressure on ourselves with what happened in 1998", said midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

England will be looking to build on a string of confident performances, while Croatia will wonder if they have anything left in the tank after going to penalty kicks in two straight matches. In the other four games, Croatia's only variable to its 4-2-3-1 formation was whether to start captain Luka Modric in a deep midfield role and Andrej Kramaric more advanced, or to move up Modric and start Marcelo Brozovic.

"'Football's coming home' is a song I couldn't even listen to for 20 years, frankly, so for me it has a slightly different feel", Southgate said Tuesday on the eve of England's World Cup semifinal match against Croatia.

"It's a massive game for us, we all know that, but there's no need to make it bigger than what it already is".

Can Southgate now become the first manager to win a World Cup semi-final with England on foreign soil as he bids ultimately to match the achievement of Alf Ramsey's side?

England, who made an early impression with a 6-1 crushing of Panama in the group stage, then overcame their shootout hoodoo in beating Colombia in the last 16 and looked composed and mature in the 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Sweden.

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