Southgate tells England stars to create their own history
England manager wants last-16 win over Colombia in bid to end 10-year drought in knock-out competition
Gareth Southgate has urged his England squad to “write their own stories” as they prepare to face Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup.
England made a positive impression in the early stages of the tournament in Russia and are now looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.
Group H winners Colombia stand in their way at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow this evening.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Southgate said: “It is 10 years since we have won a knock-out fixture.
“For this team this is a brilliant opportunity to go beyond where more experienced teams have before them. The lads have got the chance to write their own stories.”
The tournament is considered wide open following the elimination of Germany, Spain and Argentina but Southgate refuses to get carried away with his team’s chances.
He said: “We’ve been in this position before many times over the last however many years. It is pointless to think about what might happen after tomorrow’s game here.
“We will focus on the game and our performance and everything will fall into place from there.
“Maybe the teams who aren’t here weren’t as strong this time. If teams are beating Spain and Germany they have also got to be respected. We haven’t even discussed anything beyond tomorrow.”
England opened their tournament by beating Tunisia and then thrashed Panama before losing to Belgium with a much-changed side.
Southgate hopes his team will be able to express themselves even more now they are through to the second round.
He said: “The thing I want more than anything else is the players to continue to attack the tournament as we have. That shouldn’t change now we are in the knockout phase.
“If anything we should feel freer. It is a game we are really looking forward to, the sort of match you want to be involved in. It is going to be a fantastic evening.”
England have a notoriously poor record when it comes to penalty shootouts but Southgate insists his players will be ready should that eventuality arise again.
Southgate, who missed from the spot at Euro 96, said: “We have been through the various drills and prepared for if we get to that point. We know our ranking of players, but there is a lot of football before we get to that point.”
Ashley Young, who sat alongside Southgate at the press conference, missed a penalty himself during the Euro 2012 loss to Italy but would be confident enough to take another.
He said: “Of course I will put my name forward. I have confidence in my own ability to take one.”
Fabian Delph is the only absentee from the England squad that travelled to Moscow yesterday having returned home to be with his wife, who is due to give birth.
Southgate said: “Some things in life are more important than football. He might be with us - he is buying his wife curries to try to speed the process - but it is about a bit of perspective in life.”