Gareth Southgate and Harry Kane said that England’s squad has improved enough to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup ahead of their quarter-final match against France on Saturday.
“Looking back in 2018, we didn’t really know what to expect from the group,” said Kane.
“We went there with belief we could win it, but it was almost a new experience. We got to the semi-finals, and everyone was over the moon, but whether we had [the] full belief to go and win the tournament, I am not sure.
“But we backed that up by reaching the final of the Euros, and the belief has been growing. We lost in the Euros by a couple of kicks of the ball, and we have entered this tournament believing we can win, and it is about trying to push on.
“We go into the [France] game with more belief than we did in 2018. We know that we’re a very good team, and there are good teams in this tournament. If we did lose tomorrow, we would be as disappointed as anyone. Between us and everyone involved, we have a real belief and determination to be successful on the pitch.”
Southgate added: “I think a lot of work has gone on in England with the English FA and the clubs to raise the standard of young player development. Obviously, we’ve had a big focus on the national junior teams.
“This group are a team, and they are very close, and they’ve got a tremendous spirit, and they have a lot of shared experiences together now.
“It’s a real collective and that is the strength of what we have got.”
The biggest talking point ahead of the quarter-final between the two sides is how England will deal with the threat of Paris-Saint Germain star, Kylian Mbappe. Despite talk that Kyle Walker may be unable to play, Southgate confirmed that the Manchester City defender is fit, and ready for the test.
“We always wanted to give Kyle the opportunity to be fit for us at the tournament. We’ve managed that process well; it was the right reintroduction into the team. Kyle is ready.
“We’re playing France, who are a fantastic team. We’re aware of all their attacking players, and we’re aware of the quality across the whole squad. Didier [Deschamps] has created a team stronger than the individuals, maybe that wasn’t always the case like it wasn’t with us, and we’ve got to be at our best to win.”
When asked specifically about how England plan on stopping Mbappe, Southgate simply said: “The same as any other player. You have ten one-on-one battles on the field. You have to work collectively to stop an opponent like that. There’s got to be cover. You have to work the areas of the pitch and make sure there’s good support and coverage for every player on the pitch.”
Southgate will also have to make a decision over how Raheem Sterling will be involved tomorrow, with the forward not taking part in England’s last-16 win against Senegal due to an incident that caused concerns over his family’s well-being in his place of residence.
“I have spoken briefly with Raheem at training, and we will speak later on,” revealed Southgate.
“He wanted to train today. Normally we wouldn’t do that, with him having been on a long flight, but it was a lighter session.
“He will be involved tomorrow, but what that looks like, I have got to decide.”
The match-up against France will reunite Kane with his Tottenham team-mate Hugo Lloris, with Kane saying that the two have not spoken ahead of the game.
“We have a great relationship; we’ve been playing with each other a long, long time,” said Kane.
“He’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world. We’re not friends for that day, and we’ll go to have a good battle against each other, it will be two great teams going at it. I can’t speak highly enough. I know he’ll be doing everything to help France win.
“Hugo’s a fantastic leader, leads by example. He’s quite calm in pressured situations, and he knows when his voice needs to be strong. I’ve learnt a lot from him and his leadership skills, being captain of England.
“We’ve trained a lot together and played a lot together. I back myself in any situation against any goalkeeper, but I’ve seen Hugo pull off some fantastic saves over the years. I know I’ll have to be at the top of my game because I’m facing one of the best goalkeepers around.”
England will face France for a place in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup tomorrow at 19:00 GMT.
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