Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Gareth Southgate 'hugely fortunate' to get second opportunity with Three Lions

England's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring one of his three goals in a 6-1 rout of Panama Antonio Calanni England's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring one of his three goals in a 6-1 rout of Panama
Shannon Reynolds | 29 June, 2018, 11:26

"People will say that will only be the right decision if we win but it was the right decision because we could potentially be going into another match that could go into extra time and risking players we didn't need to risk".

While teams are normally looking to win games at the World Cup, both England and Belgium have every reason to hope they lose on Thursday as it would improve their placement in the knockout bracket.

The final game of the group stage sees England take on Belgium.

England and Belgium have already qualified for the knockout rounds, so they are both playing for first place in Group G. The loser of the match might actually benefit. England, in Southgate's mind, would be making a risky mistake if they started thinking too far ahead of themselves. I thought they had better control and possession than us in the first half.

There have been shocks - holders Germany going home early being the biggest - and there are likely to be more.

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Gareth Southgate feels "hugely fortunate" to have the opportunity to manage England after initially turning down the job in 2016.

Southgate, though, is keen not to look too far ahead and is instead focused on facing Colombia, having left out stars including Golden Boot leader Harry Kane.

Reports suggest that Marcus Rashford and Gary Cahill and Eric Dier will start today with Southgate deciding to rest a few players before the knockout stages.

Regardless of who prevails on Thursday night, the winners and runners up of Group G will face the winners or runners up of Group H, which could be either be Japan, Colombia or Senegal.

By now we know the eight Round of 16 match-ups, perhaps none more fascinating than France versus Argentina (though Brazil vs. Mexico is in with a shout). I go back to the fact we're trying to develop a winning mentality and I can't imagine a situation where I talk to the players about anything else. "But everyone understands - in the dressing room and in the group - what we're trying to do".

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