Team spirit catalyst in revival: Southgate

Clear weather prevails, but the forecast is for continuing beer showers as England fans celebrate outside Ashton Gate Stadium on Saturday.
Clear weather prevails, but the forecast is for continuing beer showers as England fans celebrate outside Ashton Gate Stadium on Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

England boss feels young side can improve as Andersson says they're ready to win now

SAMARA • England manager Gareth Southgate said his side were "not the finished article" yet after qualifying for the country's first World Cup semi-final appearance since 1990 with a 2-0 victory over Sweden on Saturday.

Goals from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli in Samara sent England through to a last-four showdown with Croatia on Wednesday.

Sweden coach Janne Andersson suggested after the match that England were good enough to "go all the way" in Russia, while Southgate believes there is much more to come from his youthful group.

"We are a team who are still improving. We're having success because everybody is working so hard," said the 47-year-old.

"We're not the finished article, we don't have renowned world-class players yet. We have lots of good young players who are showing on a world stage they're prepared to be brave with the ball.

"They have shown some mental resilience over the last few weeks. We know in years to come they're going to be stronger."

Southgate also said that the success of the nation's youth teams was a clear indicator of the talent coming through.

He also pleaded with English Premier League clubs to show faith in youngsters, who often find their chances restricted by the vast number of foreign imports.

"We do have some good players and they need opportunities to play," Southgate said.

"Hopefully with what our junior teams have been doing at international level, it will be a sign to all clubs that English players can play."

While Southgate was keen to play down England's success thus far, fans in London erupted in celebration when the goals were scored and beer even went flying in packed pubs and big-screen areas.

"There was just pandemonium," said Edward Stapley, 26, who watched the game at a pub near London Bridge.

"People were quite tense at first but when we scored there were beers flying in the air and people who had never met started hugging each other."

Other big viewing centres included Millennium Square in Leeds and Flat Iron Square in south London, where hundreds of fans went wild with beer showers and chants of Football's Coming Home - the song written for the Euro '96 tournament in England.

"After the first beer shower on the first goal, if we win the World Cup, I will shower in beer for the rest of the year," said Camilla Mosley, 24.

According to ESPN, fans even gatecrashed an Ikea store in Stratford, east London.

They stomped onto furniture and were shouting at the top of their voices with staff shocked by the scenes, which were recorded on video and posted on social media.

Ikea issued a statement, but the Swedish company did not sound too affected, neither by the rowdy fans nor its national team's defeat.

"We are aware of a small group of fans celebrating the match result in one of our stores," it said.

"Being both British and Swedish, we were on the edge of our seats during the game and we would like to say 'Grattis!' (congratulations in Swedish) to the England team for getting through to the semi-finals."

English media also heaped praise on Southgate's team yesterday and told the country to cancel plans for Wednesday evening when they face Croatia in the semi-finals.

"Wednesday's cancelled! Fans go wild as Three Lions reach first World Cup semi-final for 28 years," said The Sun. The Mail On Sunday online edition said: "The Dream Goes On! England in ecstasy."

British Airways, which has seen a 700 per cent increase in searches for flights to Russia on its website since England's penalty shootout last-16 win over Colombia, said it would be releasing hundreds more seats on Moscow flights.

Most fans though will be happy enough crowding around the big screens again on Wednesday.

The beer sellers cannot wait.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2018, with the headline 'Team spirit catalyst in revival: Southgate'. Print Edition | Subscribe