KEIR RADNEDGE in MOSCOW: England want to go on making history on their journey through the 2018 World Cup finals as they prepare to confront Croatia in tomorrow’s semi-final in the Luzhniki Stadium.
Manager Gareth Southgate set out the challenge of the overall task in Russia for “oen of the youngest and least experienced teams in the tournament” before his players stepped out at the venue in which they hope to be playing not once but twice in the next five days.
Victory in the second semi-final would bring England back to Luzhniki for the final against France or Belgium on Sunday; defeat would mean the letdown of a third place play-off in St Petersburg on Saturday.
Southgate, waistcoat has turned him into what even he accepts is an unlikely fashion icon, said: “We’re enjoying the journey. We’ve been one of the youngest and least experienced teams in the tournament and we were never quite sure how far this team could go but the hunger in these players has been apparent for all to see.
“We’re proud that we’ve dealt with difficult situations in games – conceding in the last minute, going through extra time and penalties – so we’ve made several pieces of history for England: the first knockout win for 10 years, the first quarter-final win for longer, so we’re looking to keep breaking those barriers down.
“It’s been an enjoyable journey and we want to keep it going.
“Our country has had a long time of suffering in terms of football so we appreciate the enthusiasm back home for these players for not only the way they’ve played but the way they’ve conducted themselves. They’ve been great ambassadors for a country which has been through some difficult moments in terms of unity but we can feel the energy and support from home and it’s been a privilege for us.”
Southate paid due tribute to the qualities of the “incredible players” of Croatia ad acknowledged the size of the semi-final challenge while pointing out that no-one could expect anything else at this stage of a World Cup.
If England should win the World Cup they will be only the second country, after Brazil in 2003, to hold the under-17, under-20 and senior championships.