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Southgate just might channel Churchill to inspire young squad

China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-11 10:28

MOSCOW - It's time for Gareth Southgate to come up with a big speech of his own.

After England gave up a tying goal to Brazil in first-half stoppage time in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, Southgate felt coach Sven-Goran Eriksson lacked oratorial inspiration in the dressing room at halftime.

Now 47-year-old former England international Southgate is leading the team, which plays Croatia on Wednesday (Thursday, Beijing time) in England's first World Cup semifinal in 28 years. The match is riveting the Land of Hope and Glory, which won its only title at home in 1966.

"Probably 18 months ago I talked to them about if you have success with England, it will be so much bigger than anything you can imagine, and I think that is probably starting to register with them now," Southgate said after Saturday's 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Sweden.

Southgate, who didn't play against Brazil, took a swipe at Eriksson after the 2-1 loss, comparing the cool-speaking Swede to a Conservative Party opposition leader widely regarded as dull.

"We needed (Winston) Churchill, but we got (former Tory leader) Iain Duncan Smith," an unnamed defender, later identified as Southgate, was quoted as saying in a 2004 book by Joe Lovejoy.

No word whether Southgate will offer his own version of "blood, sweat, toil and tears".

With the coach keeping his strategies close to his now-famous waistcoat, a young roster led by Harry Kane hopes to succeed where Gary Lineker, Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney failed.

England is ranked 12th in the world and Croatia 20th. The winner will advance to Sunday's final, which will also be played at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, against France or Belgium.

Croatia lost its only previous semifinal match to host France in 1998. It beat Denmark in the last 16 and host Russia in the quarterfinals this year, becoming only the second team with consecutive shootout wins in the same World Cup since Argentina defeated Yugoslavia and Italy in 1990.

"It won't be easy for us," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said. "We will look for the best solutions ahead the match, considering we have a few players with minor issues after the match against Russia."

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