Saturday 22 September 2018

Southgate hails 'humility' of team

England manager Gareth Southgate celebrates after their penalty shootout win. Photo: REUTERS
England manager Gareth Southgate celebrates after their penalty shootout win. Photo: REUTERS

Jason Burt and Sam Wallace

Gareth Southgate hailed the penalty shoot-out victory over Colombia as a "huge moment" in the history of English football and he revealed that he had sat his squad down before the last-16 tie in Moscow and reminded them that many had come through the lower leagues to earn the chance to play on this, the highest stage.

"We play with character and I love that about them," Southgate said, promising it was just the start of something for a young squad "who are only going to get better".

"It's an important moment for everybody in our country, really. You know you are standing there and if we don't get through from a game we played so well in, you know you will continue the history and mindset for teams to come," Southgate said. "So, it's a huge moment for these players, but also the generations to come as well."

He added that the intelligent football England played was important in what also felt like a home game for Colombia, given the vast number of their fans inside the Spartak Stadium.

"They are still a young group of players... so it was really significant, because we can't just be a team that goes out and plays," Southgate said, referring to the roughhouse nature of the tie which Mark Geiger, the American referee, struggled to control. "You have to be savvy enough and tactically aware and ready to manage games. That's what makes the difference in big matches.

"But, also, they have a humility about them. I talked to them about where they all started and the different clubs. We are based on working hard for each other, we don't carry anybody, they all pressed, they all have good organisation and they are prepared to graft and dig in for each other. Those are slightly old-fashioned qualities but we don't have the right to just stroll around a pitch."

Jamie Vardy and Ashley Young are in a race to be fit for the quarter-final against Sweden, although Southgate's worst injury fears have been allayed.

Six-goal Harry Kane has given the manager his biggest boost by declaring himself fit with no issues in his calf after having a massage to relieve cramp.

Fabian Delph announced the birth of his daughter yesterday and immediately boarded a flight back to Russia to rejoin the squad. Kane was one of a number of players assessed by medics after the Colombia game, along with Vardy, Young, Kyle Walker and Dele Alli.

Vardy had an injection after the match to treat the groin injury that occurred five minutes into extra-time. He played on but was prevented from taking part in the shoot-out. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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