Moscow (AFP) – England manager Gareth Southgate is hoping his young team can continue “breaking down barriers” when they play Croatia in the semi-finals of the World Cup in Moscow on Wednesday.
“We came here to enjoy our football, all the way through we have been one of the youngest teams in the tournament, the least experienced team, but we were never quite sure how far this team could go,” Southgate told reporters at the Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday.
England have made it to the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time since Euro ’96, when Southgate himself missed a penalty in a shoot-out defeat against Germany.
They have not been this far at a World Cup since the 1990 tournament in Italy, and coming to Russia they had managed just one win in the knockout rounds of a major tournament in 16 years.
“The hunger in the players has been apparent for all to see. We have dealt with difficult situations in games,” added Southgate, whose side have thumped minnows Panama 6-1, won a penalty shoot-out against Colombia and then beaten Sweden in the last eight.
“We have made several pieces of history — we have had our biggest win in a tournament for England, our first knockout win for 10 years, our first quarter-final win for longer, so we are just looking to keep breaking those barriers down.
“It has been a really enjoyable journey and we want to keep it going.”
England’s only appearance in the final of the World Cup remains 1966, when they won the trophy as hosts.
“We need to obviously take a lot of good things from the past in terms of ’66 and what they achieved then, but it was a long time ago. Not too many of us can remember that far back,” admitted captain Jordan Henderson, who at 28 is one of the older players in the squad.
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