England hope to keep dream alive against Croatia


Excitement has reached fever-pitch levels back in England, with Gareth Southgate's young team making it to the last four of a major tournament for the first time since Euro '96, and for the first time at a World Cup since Italy in 1990. We are purely focusing on ourselves and what we want to do as a team and the collective is really the most important thing.

"I was just a little bit tight before the game, so towards the last 20 minutes I just overstretched and I felt it a little bit", he said. "Our preparation for the game has been identical".

"I think physically it's demanding, to go 120 minutes then have to fly back to the base as well", he added. So for us we can feel the energy and support from home and it is a very special feeling and a privilege for us'.

"England are one of the favourites to win the World Cup and you have to respect that", he said.

In keeping with his even-handed and calm style, Southgate said his team were neither complacent nor too pumped up for Wednesday's clash at the Luzhniki Stadium, England's first World Cup semi-final since 1990. "You get an accumulation of fatigue through a tournament and that's why we took the decision we did against Belgium [to make changes] more than anything".

Gareth Southgate has created an exciting young squad, built upon an attractive style of play and a fearless attitude rarely seen from English sides in global football. So we won't win the game just because Croatia had half an hour more football than us three days ago.

While Croatia possess arguably the best central midfield pairing in the tournament in the shape of Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic, Southgate's language does not indicate he is about to bring in Eric Dier as an additional defensive midfielder alongside Jordan Henderson.

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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.

"We have made several pieces of history in the tournament and we're just looking to keep breaking those barriers down. We've got to win because we play better".

I haven't watched England and thought: 'Wow.' In any game.

Croatia defender Dejan Lovren is eager to prove a point when he comes up against England forward Harry Kane in the World Cup semi-finals.

"But he is a world class player and he is extremely effective for his country, for his club, and he has been one of the best players here at the World Cup so far". The more big games we're involved and the more they come out successful in, the more belief it will build.

"They've been through a lot".