Gareth Southgate is determined England will not “fall into the same trap” they did against Iceland two years ago when they meet Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday.
England, then under Roy Hodgson, saw their European Championship campaign ended at the same stage after a poor display in Nice, with Southgate hinting that team had lost focus and were already thinking about the next challenge.
And, for all the talk of the draw opening up for the Three Lions in Russia, Southgate is determined this squad will be concentrating solely on the job in hand in Moscow.
He said: “We are trying to psychologically prepare the team, get them in the right moment.
“They may need a push or calming [down], that’s what the staff are there to do.
“What we sense is an excitement and an understanding that it’s pointless looking further ahead than Tuesday.
“Maybe that’s a trap we’ve fallen into before. A few of these players were at the last championship when there was a fixture they felt should be won and then, having gone behind from being ahead and feeling comfortable, maybe they realised that approach wasn’t correct.
“I don’t expect that on Tuesday. We know we need to be spot-on to beat them but it’s a brilliant place to be.
“Everything is ahead for this team, they are hungry and they want to do well for their country. They are very proud to wear the shirt.”
— England (@England) July 2, 2018
Southgate was asked repeatedly about the draw, and the fact Spain’s exit on Sunday has reduced further the number of ‘big nations’ in their half. But each question was rebuffed.
“We have to focus on the game on Tuesday,” he said.
“We have a very difficult opponent, a very good side who we respect. We have to concentrate on our football, play in the style we have so far in the tournament, with the same mentality, and show the resilience and the freedom we have done up to this point.
“I want the players to attack the tournament the way they have, that does not change now we are in the knockout stage. If anything, we should be freer.”
Fabian Delph remains at home with his wife, who has gone into labour, although Southgate joked the Manchester City man is “buying her curries to try to speed the process along”, and his availability is still unclear.
“He’s desperate to support us but I think his focus needs to be with his family at this time,” Southgate added.
“My father’s generation would view that differently but you have to be there for your family and that’s very important.”
With James Rodriguez struggling to be fit after sustaining a calf injury, Colombia’s main threat will likely come from Radamel Falcao.
The striker struggled mightily in England during loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea but Southgate explained there were mitigating circumstances and remains a big fan.
“When he was playing in England he was recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury,” he said.
“When I saw him play at Atletico [Madrid] he was incredible. It takes a good 12 to 18 months to recover from an ACL properly but he was back very quickly for the World Cup and I thought he was never quite at full fitness.
“He seems to have recovered that at Monaco and certainly every time he plays for his country his movement is outstanding. And we know the quality of his finishing.
“He’s a player that we know all about and we wouldn’t judge him on the period he had in the Premier League, that’s for sure.”
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