Gareth Southgate defends resting England players for 'biggest game for a decade'

30 June, 2018, 12:26 | Author: Raquel Nash
  • Russia map Where is Kaliningrad? Is it safe for England fans

England last won a match in the last 16 of the finals when they completed a 1-0 victory over Ecuador in 2006 before losing on penalties to Portugal after a 0-0 draw. "Whoever we play, we believe we are capable of beating them".

Asked if he had put himself under pressure by making so many alterations in Kaliningrad, Southgate said: "Well, maybe I have, maybe I haven't".

England finished second in Group G after the loss in Kaliningrad and will now face Colombia in the last-16.

By winning the match and thus the group, Belgium moves to the "side of death" for the knockout round, where four of the top five teams in the world according to Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings - Brazil, Belgium, Portugal, and Argentina - will all compete for one spot in the final.

"I think both sides are keen to continue that work at a faster pace than we have done up till now and certainly we would welcome that", she said today.

"It's exciting", Southgate said of the clash.

"We feel it was a game we wanted to win but the knockout game is the biggest in a decade so we had to preserve our key players".

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"He was excellent on that, showed real leadership and understanding of the big picture". The depth of knowledge and understanding, we didn't have as much information as we do now.

"But we also have some really good players who are full of belief. I wasn't so comfortable with the love-in [before the game], to be honest, so it's nice that there's a little bit of an edge back".

"We know where we are, how immaculate we have to be to win matches against the very best teams".

The Colombia coach said he was "extremely concerned" about the player's fitness but was pleased that the team rose to the occasion to snatch the win against Senegal. "Everyone's seen the level that we've been playing at and we've got to keep improving".

"It was a pretty even game, they [Belgium] had better control of possession and better chances in the first half, we had good ones in the second", Southgate said to ITV.

While leaders often say politics should be kept out of sport, the World Cup and other tournaments provide opportunities for them to bring sport into politics, by scoring points over rivals or buffing up their popular credentials.

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