Belfast Telegraph

England haven't achieved anything yet at World Cup, warns Southgate


Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate

By Simon Peach

Gareth Southgate has stressed that a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup represents progress not success and wants to achieve more than a warm welcome when the squad finally return home. From a public relations standpoint, England's Russian summer has been a runaway triumph - with the bond between supporters and players tangibly rebuilt and scenes of riotous celebrations marking a penalty shootout victory over Colombia that had been 22 years in the making.

But Southgate, whose stock is rising with each passing day and every adulatory social media meme, is approaching tomorrow's eagerly anticipated clash against Sweden with a sense of perspective.

"We have made progress but we haven't achieved success yet," he said.

"My feet are firmly on the ground. I have been in football for 30 years, and I have had plenty of ups and downs. That night (against Colombia) was a great night for all of us but my focus was pretty quickly onto Sweden because we are in the last-eight of a World Cup.

"We want more of those experiences and we want to go as far as we possibly can."

At the outset of the competition, consensus suggested a place in the last-eight would be a good effort from Southgate's youthful squad. But the goalposts have been moving in recent days and even the level-headed manager has shifted his sights.

He said: "We're at the stage where we could go home now, get a nice reception - we've won a knockout game, a shootout - or we can go stages further and really have made a difference and created our own history.

"We said before we came we wanted to make the nation proud."

Southgate also sounded a note of caution about Sweden, whose current Fifa ranking of 24 places them 12 behind England and eight below Colombia.

That is misleading given they qualified ahead of Holland, beat Italy in a play-off and topped the group which Germany finished bottom of here in Russia.

"They're a team I respect," Southgate said. "They have a clear identity and have had incredible results. I've played and watched them enough to know how strong they are."

Belfast Telegraph


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