Wed, Jul 11, 2018 - Page 16 News List

England thrive in World Cup ‘bubble’ ahead of semi-final

AFP, REPINO, Russia

As excitement builds in England in the run-up to the nation’s first World Cup semi-final for 28 years, midfielder Dele Alli said that the team are keeping a cool head in their tournament “bubble.”

England’s matches so far in Russia have attracted huge television audiences at home and wild celebrations, with coach Gareth Southgate and his vibrant young squad capturing the hearts of a nation.

In sharp contrast to the feverish atmosphere, Alli and his teammates are in relaxed mood in the sleepy seaside resort of Repino, 45km northwest of St Petersburg.

“You are in your own little bubble when here — training camp, coming back, getting ready for the next game. It is not until you look at social media and the Internet that you realize how big it is,” Alli said.

“Obviously we know we are playing in the World Cup, in the semi-final. We are so focused on the games that you forget what we have done so far,” he added. “It is important that we stay like that, keep going and hopefully we achieve something to make it even more special — to get to the final and win it.”

Alli on Saturday last week scored his first World Cup goal as England cruised into the last four with a 2-0 win over Sweden.

A much tougher test is expected in Moscow today against a Croatia side who swept past Argentina in the group stages and boast the midfield talents of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona.

However, while many pundits and even England fans are surprised by their progress, Alli said the squad always believed they could go far.

“We had to believe and we know how talented we are as a squad,” he said. “We know we have some unbelievable players and a great manager, and everyone is clear on what we want to do.”

“When you have such a solid foundation, you have the basics and clear understanding of what we want to do and achieve, it’s not a surprise that it’s going well for us,” he added.

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