Swedes and M*A*S*H* on menu for South­gate

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

GARETH South­gate has told Eng­land’s play­ers to cap­i­talise on the chance to live out their World Cup dreams, al­though the man­ager is un­der no il­lu­sions about what a “hugely dif­fi­cult” quar­ter-fi­nal awaits against Swe­den.

Tues­day night’s dra­matic last-16 clash against Colom­bia was dogged by ad­ver­sity and con­tro­versy, but the Three Lions emerged vic­to­ri­ous in a penalty shootout for just the sec­ond time af­ter draw­ing 1-1 af­ter ex­tra­time.

Jor­dan Hen­der­son failed from the spot but Jor­dan Pick­ford de­nied Car­los Bacca af­ter Ma­teus Uribe hit the bar, al­low­ing Eric Dier to seal a 4-3 shootout win and mouth-wa­ter­ing last-eight clash against Swe­den in Sa­mara on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“We’ve talked a lot to this team about mak­ing their own his­tory and I feel they’ve re­ally bought into ev­ery­thing we’ve tried to do with them,” said South­gate, hav­ing seen Harry Kane’s sec­ond-half penalty can­celled out by Yerry Mina in stop­page time.

“The com­po­sure they showed in their play for the first 85 to 88 min­utes in a big match, un­der pres­sure, I thought was re­ally im­pres­sive.

“I think for them, def­i­nitely a big mo­ment. We want to cap­i­talise on it now. I’m al­ready think­ing about the next game.

“I’d have liked a week to en­joy this one but haven’t got that be­cause Swe­den are a team I re­spect hugely.

“We’ve not got a good record against them, I think we’ve al­ways un­der­es­ti­mated them.

“They have good plans, they have a clear way of play­ing – and it’s bloody dif­fi­cult to play against.

“They are greater than the sum of their parts more of­ten than not, so that is a hugely dif­fi­cult game for us. But what a great game for us to be in.”

Re­cov­ery could be in­ter­est­ing given South­gate said Eng­land’s dress­ing room looked “like a scene from M*A*S*H*” af­ter the 120 min­utes in Moscow.

Is­sues other than cramp need to be as­sessed and it will take 36 hours af­ter the game to get a fuller pic­ture about the prob­lems sus­tained on a night when the Three Lions showed their met­tle.

Colom­bia fans made it feel “like an away fix­ture” but their play­ers’ rough­hous­ing was met by a more street­wise re­sponse than gen­er­a­tions gone by, even af­ter see­ing Wil­mar Bar­rios avoid a red card for head­but­ting Hen­der­son.

“Maybe we’re get­ting a bit smarter,” South­gate said. “Maybe we’re now play­ing some of our game by the rules the rest of the world are play­ing.

“But I think we also kept our dig­nity, kept our sports­man­ship, and if we were down it was be­cause we were fouled.”

South­gate felt like there was one Eng­land fan to ev­ery five Colom­bia sup­port­ers at the Spar­tak Sta­dium, but the feel­good fac­tor, cou­pled with less­en­ing con­cerns about Rus­sia, could now see fans head east.

“We have fan­tas­tic sup­port­ers who’ve had to stand with us for decades of dis­ap­point­ment,” the Eng­land boss said. “I’m ex­tremely proud that our team have made ev­ery­body in Eng­land very happy and for the next few days, so that’s a re­ally spe­cial mo­ment for our coun­try.

“I think we’ll get quite a few look­ing to travel for the quar­ter-fi­nal, al­though that’s dif­fi­cult to get to lo­gis­ti­cally.”

Sa­mara could be worth the jour­ney, though, given the way Eng­land’s play­ers have re­acted to pres­sure so far.

Ever­ton goal­keeper Pick­ford came un­der scru­tiny fol­low­ing the loss to Bel­gium, but saved a key penalty hav­ing pro­duced a world-class one­handed stop late in the game.

“It was a top-class save – sur­prised he could reach it given his height,” South­gate said with a laugh, re­fer­ring to Bel­gium shot-stop­per Thibaut Cour­tois’ com­ments.

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