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MAN­AGER Gareth South­gate has told Eng­land’s young squad to at­tack the World Cup un­bur­dened by their fore­run­ners’ fail­ings.

Seam­less prepa­ra­tions have been un­der­pinned by an­tic­i­pa­tion and hope, leav­ing the Three Lions in fine fet­tle ahead of to­day’s Group G opener against Tu­nisia in Vol­gograd.

South­gate’s promis­ing young side look ready to make a mark on the world stage and help atone for the dis­ap­point­ments of re­cent tour­na­ments.

Af­ter bow­ing out at the group stage of the last World Cup, Eng­land some­how man­aged to stoop even lower by los­ing to Ice­land to exit Euro 2016. Tu­nisia marks their first ma­jor tour­na­ment match since then and the chance to kick off the fi­nals with a vic­tory for the first time in 12 years.

“I think the his­tory can help us in terms of un­der­stand­ing what we can im­prove upon and what we can do,” Eng­land boss South­gate said.

“You learn lessons from the past, but this team shouldn’t be bur­dened with it be­cause they’re a fresh group, most of them have very few in­ter­na­tional caps.

“The fu­ture is all ahead of them, so they have to be think­ing about what’s pos­si­ble.

“The play­ers of the past and op­por­tu­ni­ties of the past are gone.

“This team is look­ing at things in a dif­fer­ent way, try­ing to play in a dif­fer­ent way.

“They have a hunger, a de­sire, we have bet­ter tech­ni­cal play­ers than we’ve had in the past com­ing through our academies, so there’s a real en­thu­si­asm.

“They’re look­ing for­ward to get­ting go­ing.

“It’s been great to have time on the train­ing pitch with them ,but of course when you’re in the last group to play then you’re hav­ing to sit and watch every­body else get out there.

“I don’t think they want any more in­for­ma­tion. They just want to get on with the games now.”

Eng­land en­joyed in­jury-free prepa­ra­tions for the tour­na­ment, as well as en­cour­ag­ing warm-up wins against Nige­ria and Costa Rica.

But it is the warmth and open­ness of the play­ers at St Ge­orge’s Park and Repino that ap­pear to have won over sup­port­ers.

“I think that con­nec­tion with our sup­port­ers is re­ally im­por­tant,” for­mer Eng­land de­fender South­gate said.

“There has been lots of per­cep­tions about our play­ers for a long time – and I don’t think they’ve been the truth.

“So, it’s been re­ally good for our public to see how much it means to the play­ers to play, to see a dif­fer­ent side of their per­son­al­ity.

“In the end, it’s how we per­form and how we play in this tour­na­ment.

“But there’s a big­ger pic­ture for us in that with a group of young of play­ers, who I think are go­ing to be to­gether for a long time, I think it’s im­por­tant peo­ple see the en­thu­si­asm and hunger they have got to play for their coun­try.”

South­gate spoke with a calm as­sur­ance along­side cap­tain Harry Kane at the pre-match press con­fer­ence at the Vol­gograd Arena.

While there was never any doubt about the striker start­ing against Tu­nisia, the Eng­land man­ager moved to erad­i­cate any lin­ger­ing doubts about the rest of his start­ing line-up.

“I think the play­ers pretty much knew the team any­way from the way we work in train­ing,” South­gate said. “I just felt it gives some clar­ity.

“It’s some­thing that, in the cou­ple of tour­na­ments I played in, the man­agers did in the week lead­ing up to the first game and I felt it did give every­body the op­por­tu­nity just to re­ally fo­cus.”

What would ap­pear to be the most neg­a­tive as­pect in Vol­gograd is out of their con­trol, with fewer than 3,000 ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ sup­port­ers ex­pected to cheer Eng­land in their opener.

“There’s ob­vi­ously been a lot of sto­ries lead­ing into the tour­na­ment that have put peo­ple off com­ing,” South­gate said.

“We’ve tried to re­as­sure peo­ple that we don’t see any dan­gers.

“I think ev­ery­one can see the se­cu­rity around the tour­na­ment es­pe­cially, so we’re re­ally grate­ful to the peo­ple who are trav­el­ling.

“It al­ways gives us a huge lift to see the fans in the sta­dium.”

Kane is al­ready play­ing catchup to Cris­tiano Ron­aldo in the World Cup scor­ing stakes, but the Eng­land cap­tain is hop­ing to start a goal spree of his own against Tu­nisia.

Ron­aldo turned in a clas­sic per­for­mance with a su­perb hat­trick as Por­tu­gal drew 3-3 with Spain on Fri­day, in­stantly turn­ing up the heat on the rest of the tour­na­ment’s top marks­men.

Kane said: “For sure, he’s put me un­der a bit of pres­sure. He’s a fan­tas­tic player who had a fan­tas­tic game.

“Hope­fully I will score a hat­trick [tnight] and we’ll both be level.”

The play­ers of the past and op­por­tu­ni­ties of the past are gone. Eng­land man­ager Gareth South­gate, on his side play­ing with­out any bur­dens.

IN­SPIRED Mex­ico held on to beat de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Ger­many in a stun­ning per­for­mance at Moscow’s Luzh­niki Sta­dium.

Man of the match Hirv­ing Lozano scored the only goal of the game when he fin­ished a Mex­i­can break by drilling a low shot past Manuel Neuer, but, in truth, this was a breath­tak­ing team per­for­mance.

Ger­many, on the other hand, took too long to get go­ing and lacked the poise the rest of the world has grown ac­cus­tomed to see­ing from them on this stage.

They have been bat­ter­ing teams in World Cup open­ers for as long as any of the play­ers on this pitch could re­mem­ber.

Their pre­vi­ous de­feat in a first game was to Al­ge­ria in 1982, and since then they had av­er­aged three and a half goals.

But right from the first minute, or even right from the na­tional an­thems, it seemed this opener could be dif­fer­ent.

The Mex­i­can me­dia had talked up Lozano in the build-up and ev­ery­one saw why af­ter about 30 sec­onds. Car­los Vela, who the Mex­i­can me­dia have been talk­ing up for over a decade, found some space and slipped the ball to the on­rush­ing Lozano, who cut in­side and shot with his right foot.

This time it was blocked. This time be­cause it was a se­quence of events that would be­come as reg­u­lar as the Moscow Metro: one ev­ery five min­utes.

Now play­ing in Los An­ge­les, Vela clearly went miss­ing dur­ing his eight years with Ar­se­nal – only 29 ap­pear­ances for the Gun­ners in eight frus­trat­ing sea­sons – but Ger­many could not get a han­dle on him, ei­ther.

Within 20 min­utes Neuer, the Golden Glove win­ner four years ago, had been given more chances to re­mind ev­ery­one of this than he could have hoped for with Hec­tor Her­rera and West Ham’s Javier Her­nan­dez both test­ing him.

But Ger­many were mak­ing chances, too, with Bay­ern Mu­nich’s ma­raud­ing right-back Joshua Kim­mich putting Timo Werner in for a shot at goal and then cre­at­ing panic with a fizzing cross.

Mex­ico were the more com­posed side, though, and they also had speed and will­ing run­ners. It was no­tice­able that when Germa- ny had a cor­ner or at­tack­ing free­kick Mex­ico left Her­nan­dez, Lozano and some­times right-winger Miguel Layun up the pitch.

So when a Ger­man move broke down in the 35th minute the crowd had al­ready seen four re­hearsals of what hap­pened next: Vela to Her­nan­dez to Lozano to his right foot, and this time to the back of net, with Neuer beaten at his near post.

The 22-year-old scored 19 in 34 games for PSV Eind­hoven in the sea­son just ended and this was his eighth in 29 for Mex­ico.

De­fend­ers should re­mem­ber the name and the fact he does not use his left foot.

Ger­many kept ask­ing Mex­ico ques­tions, but El Tri’s rear­guard con­tin­ued to find an­swers.

Guillermo Ochoa, their goal­keeper, had a good Brazil 2014 as well and he showed there is spring in his 32-year-old heels when he tipped a Toni Kroos free­kick onto the bar just be­fore the break.

But it was an omen of things to come. Ger­many are ranked No 1 by FIFA for a rea­son and they beat Mex­ico 4-1 on their way to last year’s win in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup, so it was in­evitable that a re­sponse was com­ing.

Me­sut Ozil, who was has been un­der huge pres­sure in the buildup for the photo op­por­tu­nity he and Ilkay Gun­do­gan gave to Tur­key’s con­tro­ver­sial pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan last month, sud­denly started to or­ches­trate af­fairs.

With 20 min­utes to go both Vela and Lozano were off, ut­terly ex­hausted, and Mex­ico were now firmly in none-shall-pass mode.

The fact Kim­mich went close with an over­head kick is a guide of how high up the pitch he was play­ing. Ju­lian Draxler and then Werner both saw shots fly over.

Marco Reus, the player many Ger­mans wanted to see from the start, was on now as well and Mex­ico were hang­ing on. Ju­lian Brandt, an­other late sub­sti­tute, flashed a shot inches away in the 89th minute.

But that was as close as the four-time world cham­pi­ons would get, as Mex­ico, to the de­light of their fer­vent fol­low­ing, held on for a fa­mous win and a very rare Ger­man set­back.

Mex­ico coach Juan Car­los Oso­rio said his side’s vic­tory was six months in the plan­ning, but de­liv­ered by a team who played with glory in mind, not worry.

Ger­many had not lost an open­ing game at the World Cup since 1982 and thrashed Mex­ico 4-1 at last sum­mer’s Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup.

But Oso­rio, who spent four years as an as­sis­tant coach with Manch­ester City more than a decade ago, knew ex­actly how he wanted his team to ap­proach this task.

The 57-year-old Colom­bian said: “I told them to play for the love of win­ning, not the fear of los­ing.

“I al­ways tell the play­ers that I’m sup­posed to be the one who car­ries all the pres­sure. They just need to con­cen­trate on the game and when they win it’s their credit and if we lose it’s my fault.

“That’s the way foot­ball is and they re­ally fo­cused on the beau­ti­ful game and they beat the world cham­pi­ons.”

Lozano said his goal “was the best I’ve scored” and de­scribed it “as a dream come true”.

Ger­many coach Joachim Low said: “We played very badly in the first half and were not able to im­pose our­selves.”

He de­scribed his side’s open­ing 45 min­utes as “hap­haz­ard”, “in­ef­fec­tive”, “neg­li­gent” and “ner­vous”.

He ad­mit­ted that his de­fend­ers strug­gled to cope with Mex­ico’s speed on the break, but the real prob­lem was the slop­pi­ness of their at­tack, a sit­u­a­tion that im­proved in the sec­ond half only for their ef­forts on goal to be “jinxed” or “rushed”.


ECSTASY AND DE­SPAIR: Ger­many goal­keeper Manuel Neuer walks past as Mex­ico play­ers cel­e­brate their 1-0 Group F vic­tory over the World Cup hold­ers in the Luzh­niki Sta­dium in Moscow.


SHEER DE­LIGHT: Mex­ico’s Hirv­ing Lozano, left, cel­e­brates with his team-mate Je­sus Gal­lardo af­ter scor­ing against Ger­many in their open­ing Group F game in Moscow. Inset, the clos­est Ger­many got to an equaliser was when Toni Kroos struck the Mex­i­can cross­bar with a free-kick.

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