Joe Hart wants England’s players to be brave against Spain on Tuesday as they strive to find an identity comparable to Europe’s finest 21st century team.
Spain’s exit from Euro 2016 in the round of 16 definitively marked the end of their imperial phase, which had initially been heralded by a shock group-stage departure from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Nevertheless, the influence of a relentless, slick playing style on the road to glory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 continues to heavily influence contemporary tactical thinking.
Julen Lopetegui is now in charge after Vicente del Bosque’s departure, while England are under the care of interim boss Gareth Southgate following the ill-fated, one-match reign of Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson having stepped down in the aftermath of their European Championship humiliation against Iceland in June.
England’s muddled play in Euro 2016 was a far cry from Spain’s well-honed methods and, although they have taken 10 points from four subsequent World Cup qualifiers, there remains work to be done on that front.
“We’re trying to express ourselves as a team and find an identity,” said Hart at a pre-match news conference, with Southgate’s men looking to build on Friday’s 3-0 win over neighbours Scotland.
“It’s really difficult for an international manager to do that I think, because you get such little time together and we’re very new.
“But I feel we’ve got a really good squad in terms of wanting to learn and work for each other and that came forward on Friday and hopefully again on Tuesday night.
“I think we’ve got some really important players from their club teams and it’s about encouraging them to be brave enough.”
The victory over Scotland marked England’s latest steps towards rehabilitation from Euro 2016 and Hart insisted it would be damaging to dwell on a campaign that went wretchedly for him personally and the team as a whole.
“Whether you want it to be [out of your system] or you don’t, it has to be,” said the 29-year-old, who joined Torino on loan after the tournament, having been overlooked by new Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
“Football moves forward, we’ve got new goals. We’re disappointed about it but it’s another day, another campaign.
“We can’t be licking wounds, we need to be moving forward.”
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