Belfast Telegraph

England nurse injuries worries but WILL get better, vows Southgate


By Simon Peach

Gareth Southgate is juggling injury concerns ahead of a World Cup quarter-final that the England manager hopes will prove to be just the start for his young side.

England broke with tradition on Tuesday to seal progress from the last 16 at the expense of Colombia on penalties after a hard-fought 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

Eric Dier hammered home his attempt to wrap up a 4-3 victory after goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saved Carlos Bacca's spot-kick as the new generation overcame what has long been an English hoodoo.

A mouth-watering quarter-final against Sweden now awaits this Saturday - an occasion Southgate (right) is not taking for granted but believes could become an increasingly regular occurrence given England's talent.

"I think in terms of what they are capable of over the next few years, they are going to get better," he said.

"We now have to assess all the injuries and see where we are. For sure, going to extra-time I'm pleased we did what we did in the Belgium game even more because I think it's an accumulation of fatigue making things more difficult.

"But now we have a chance to reassess and it will be a tough game for sure."

Southgate added: “Sweden are often underestimated and I have real respect for Sweden.

“They are always more than the sum of their parts. Our record against them is another one we have to put right. But I think we have always viewed them at our level and I don’t think that’s right because their tournament record is better than ours.”

Jamie Vardy is a doubt with a groin strain and it is understood he had an injection after the match, while Dele Alli, Kyle Walker and Ashley Young also need checking.

“I think he’s fine,” Southgate said of Alli. “We felt it was probably a good time to try and solidify a little bit and with hindsight it was probably a good thing that he didn’t go to extra-time.”

Fabian Delph’s return after the birth of his daughter looks a timely boost at a time when England, the top seeds in their half of the draw, can ill afford complacency to seep in.

“I think that was the concern, looking too far ahead,” Southgate said. “I think after the game we are allowed to enjoy it and we must. But then we are very much one game at a time.

“We know the size of the task and we know the difficulty of this task. Every other team in our half of the draw will be thinking exactly the same as us.

“There are some really good players and some really good teams. So we will enjoy it but then we go again.”

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