Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Gareth Southgate drops major England semi-final selection hint

Gareth Southgate drops major England semi-final selection hint

Kieran Trippier has created 13 chances at the 2018 World Cup, more than any other defender at the tournament, and, if he can continue that form here, he may just provide Harry Kane with the bullets that fire England into their first World Cup final since 1966. "I've been involved in all the plans really, right through the age groups", he said.

Southgate explained: "Our younger teams having the success they have had has been hugely rewarding".

"We know we have some unbelievable players and a great manager and everyone is clear on what we want to do". Hendo was one who was feeling tightness in his hamstring, which was why we made the change. We have to constantly evolve and improve. With this team, it's the same.

"The milestones [the players] have hit [in Russia] are a great reference point moving forward. We can't concentrate too much on them, we have to concentrate on ourselves and that's exactly what we will be doing going into the game".

Southgate added: "I think Raheem has been fundamental to the way that we have played - his movement, the positions he takes up, his pressing of the ball, his work-rate for the team, the winning of free kicks and corners, his speed to stretch teams". That's what we wanted to do with our younger teams. You don't have to find another level, generally speaking.

They had won just one knockout match at a major tournament in 16 years before coming to Russian Federation, a 1-0 victory against Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Eleven of Southgate's 23-man squad in Russian Federation had featured at Euro 2016, when that humiliating knockout defeat by Iceland had prompted new doubts over the FA's long-term planning. Of course, after going the distance in two straight games, who knows if they'll even have the energy to finish the game on their feet. "We've talked about how important it is to have that spirit".

"There is still a lot to play".

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

And he can see similarities between the two groups of players. But it's an ongoing process. Their players have won nine Champions Leagues between them, compared to England's one, and 11 of their squad have more than 40 caps.

Expectations have risen as the team have progressed, with the players well aware of the frenzied scenes of celebration in England which have greeted each of their successes in Russian Federation.

"That's exactly what I asked our fitness coach as well", said Southgate in Moscow. But the enthusiasm for these players, not only because of the way they've played but how they've conducted themselves ... they've been brilliant ambassadors for our country.

For all of the hype around England, they have yet to come up against one of the really big guns at the World Cup.

"Our country has been through some hard moments recently in terms of its unity, but sport can unite".

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