As England head to the final eight of the 2018 World Cup, where they face Sweden, Gareth Southgate has spoke of how once he juggles injuries, he hopes coming this far is just the start for his young team.
Before Tuesday’s penalty shoot out that sealed their win over Columbia, the England team had a terrible record, having had three defeats at World Cup level and six defeats in seven shootouts in major tournaments in 1990, 1998 and 2006.
Their win rate of 14% was the worst of any national team with more than five shootouts to its name. So finally winning a shoot-out at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 96, was a huge moment in the history of English football.
Southgate has put a lot into preparing for this campaign, from the list of penalty takers that had been decided for weeks, to the scientific methods used to select them to the ball-striking coach brought in to improve those players’ chances of winning a shootout.
But whilst currently full of promise, Southgate isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I think in terms of what they are capable of over the next few years, they are going to get better,” Southgate said.
“In this tournament we now have to assess all the injuries and see where we are.
“For sure, going to extra-time, I’m pleased we did what we did in the Belgium game even more because I think it’s an accumulation of fatigue making things more difficult.
“But now we have a chance to reassess and it will be a tough game for sure. Because Sweden are often underestimated and I have real respect for Sweden.
“They are always more than the sum of their parts. Our historic record against them is another one we have to put right.
“But I think we have always viewed them at our level and I don’t think that’s right because their tournament record is better than ours.”