Tunisia vs England - Southgate puts positive spin on negative history



Posted Monday, June 18, 2018 by PA

Tunisia vs England - Southgate puts positive spin on negative history

Gareth Southgate has told England’s young squad to attack the World Cup unburdened by failings of the past.

Seamless preparations have been underpinned by anticipation and hope, leaving the Three Lions in fine fettle ahead of Monday’s Group G opener against Tunisia in Volgograd.

Southgate’s promising young side look ready to make a mark on the world stage and help atone for the disappointments of recent tournaments.

After bowing out at group stage of the last World Cup, England somehow managed to stoop even lower by losing to Iceland to exit Euro 2016.

The Tunisia game marks their first major tournament match since then and the chance to kick off the finals with a victory for the first time in 12 years.

“I think the history can help us in terms of understanding what we can improve upon and what we can do,” England manager Southgate said.

“You learn lessons from the past, but this team shouldn’t be burdened with it because they’re a fresh group, most of them have very few international caps.

“The future is all ahead of them, so they have to be thinking about what’s possible. The players of the past and opportunities of the past are gone.

“This team is looking at things in a different way, trying to play in a different way.

“They’re looking forward to getting going.”

Southgate spoke with a calm assurance alongside captain Harry Kane at the pre-match press conference at the Volgograd Arena.

While there was never any doubt about striker Kane starting against Tunisia, the England manager moved to eradicate any lingering doubts about the rest of his starting line-up two days before the game.

“I think the players pretty much knew the team anyway from the way we work in training,” Southgate said. “I just felt it gives some clarity.

“It’s something that, in the couple of tournaments I played in, the managers did in the week leading up to the first game and I felt it did give everybody the opportunity just to really focus.”

Tunisia manager Nabil Maaloul has noticed the improvement in England’s team spirit under Southgate.

Monday’s game reprises a fixture which was last contested at the same stage during France 98.

“It is true that Tunisia played against England in 1998, when they had great players like (David) Beckham and (Michael) Owen, but there was not the same great collective spirit,” Maaloul said.

“I think that this team has progressed enormously. They have young players, the third youngest they’ve sent to a World Cup. Maybe they’ve changed a bit in terms of their mentality, their attitude.”

Maaloul rated England as potential winners of the tournament but also named Belgium as the group favourites and talked up his own squad’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.

“There is enormous pressure on our shoulders – we represent Africa and the Arabic world and 12 million Tunisians who are behind us,” said Maaloul.

“England (have pressure) too, because they’re one of the favourites in the group and to win the World Cup.”

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