England manager Gareth Southgate called on his players to shut out the noise ahead of this month’s World Cup, and focus instead on the opportunity they have to become the greatest team in the country’s history with victory in Qatar.
Southgate’s side reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of last year’s European Championship, but England has failed to win a major trophy since lifting the World Cup on home soil in 1966.
England begin its group campaign against Iran on Nov. 21 and also face the United States and Wales in Group B.
“With the players we want to talk to them about the excitement of going to a World Cup,” Southgate said.
“We understand the need to comment on the off-field things that surround this tournament, but we want the players to feel that enthusiasm that they’ve had since kids. We want to fuel that.
“We want them to transition from a hectic club schedule to thinking about England. We want to talk to them about the fact that this, whatever happens over the next four weeks, has been the second-best period for English football. We can make it the best.”
The World Cup will give England’s players a chance to prove themselves in international football, with Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham among those seeking a breakthrough on soccer’s biggest stage.
Southgate heaped praise on the 19-year-old midfielder, saying he is showing maturity beyond his years.
“Mature in how he works, how he trains, how he speaks,” Southgate said. “He competes - it is probably the thing we love about him more than anything else.
“That has a line at times and undoubtedly there will be moments, while he is young, that it will be crossed. But he’s a very exciting player and he’s one we’ve got a good body of experience into early.”