Dele Alli has told his England teammates they must grab their opportunity to make an instant impact on the World Cup against Tunisia here on Monday.
It is believed that Ashley Young, Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson have beaten off competition from Danny Rose, Gary Cahill and Eric Dier respectively to be in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for the Group G clash.
Gareth Southgate’s side are underpressure to get off to a good start, having won just two of their past 13 opening matches at major tournaments — one of which was against the same opposition 20 years ago.
Tunisia are expected to set up defensively in order to negate England’s attacking threat, but Alli feels this is a challenge they must overcome. “We know we have to be ruthless,” said the Tottenham midfielder.
“It’s international football. You are not going to get too many chances, so when they do come you have to be ruthless and put it in the back of the net. We are going to have to be patient. Tunisia defend very well, so if we do have a lot of possession we have to make sure we are not forcing it. We have to stick together as a team.
“I don’t think we can put a limit on what is possible for us this tournament. We’ve got a young, hungry team with experienced players as well. We don’t want to say we can only get the the quarters or semi-finals. We believe we can go all the way. We have to. There is no point coming here and believing anything else.”
Alli was part of the England side that suffered an embarrassing defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 in the last 16. Concerns have remained ever since over England’s ability to play under pressure at the highest level, but Alli says there will not be a repeat against Tunisia.
“When Gareth came in (2016) we knew as a squad, as a team, we had to go through the match again because if you don’t speak about it, nothing is going to get fixed,” the 22-year-old told ITV Sport.
“It’s easy just to try and put it at the back of your mind and bury it, but we all sat together and watched the game and clips back. We just tried to speak about what went wrong.
“We went 2-1 down and it was sort of like, ‘This shouldn’t be happening’ and we didn’t really know how to react to it.
“You have to learn from things like that. Whoever is in front of us, we have to go out there and know it is going to be a challenge, not expect to win.”
Southgate, himself, has urged his players not to leave Russia this summer with any regrets and make the most of competing against the world’s elite.
The manager said: “I don’t want them to look back and think, ‘I wish I had tried things, I wish I’d had a go a lot more, I wish I’d really expressed the full level of my talent’. Without doing that, you never know how good you might be in life. We are going to enjoy the journey.”
Southgate also dismissed the notion that having to wait so long to play — England arrived in Russia last Tuesday — has put them at a disadvantage.
He told ITV Sport: “Although we are last to play, and that can feel like you are waiting at the back of the room for your time on the dancefloor, it’s given us time to work tactically and improve the understanding of how we want to play.
“Tunisia are a very good team. They use the ball very well, so we’ve got to be tactically correct. We’ve got to play in the style we’ve been playing in the lead up to this tournament and have belief in what we are doing.
“We always prepare the team so that they tactically know what to do. We put them into scenarios where they may be behind, they may be ahead and how we are going to manage those games. That is key for our preparation for any match.
“They are ready. They know the way we want to play. We are here to attack the tournament.”
|Phil Jones||Manchester United||26||25||0|
|John Stones||Manchester City||23||26||0|
|Kyle Walker||Manchester City||27||35||0|
|Ashley Young||Manchester United||32||34||7|
|Fabian Delph||Manchester City||28||11||0|
|Jesse Lingard||Manchester United||25||12||1|
|Raheem Sterling||Manchester City||23||38||2|
|Marcus Rashford||Manchester United||20||19||3|