World Cup 2018: England have connected with fans again - Gareth Southgate
England v Colombia (19:00 BST, Tuesday 3 July)
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England boss Gareth Southgate says his team have reconnected with supporters and created a fresh air of excitement as they prepare to meet Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday.
Southgate contrasted England's previously uncomfortable relationship with their fans with the goodwill and optimism fuelling their attempt to reach the quarter-finals in Russia.
"The players have been able to change perceptions of how an England team might play," he told the World Cup Daily podcast.
"We mustn't lose sight of that.
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"Ten months ago we qualified for the World Cup by beating Slovenia and people were throwing paper aeroplanes on to the pitch at Wembley. We were driving back to our hotel after beating Malta with some obscene chants being thrown at us from supporters."
Southgate added: "I feel like we've started to connect the team with the public again. I feel like we've created excitement like we've played in a style that has really shown an expression of what young English players are capable of, and I want us to continue doing that."
England have a pathway opening in front of them, with a quarter-final meeting with either Sweden or Switzerland if they can overcome Colombia in Moscow.
They beat Tunisia 2-1 and Panama 6-1 before losing 1-0 to Belgium to finish second in Group G.
Southgate has great confidence in his squad, saying: "I really believe in the group of players we have got. They are young. They are inexperienced.
"For some of them, this will be one of the biggest games they'll have been involved in - but maybe not the biggest. We've always got to keep that in context for the players."
Southgate, meanwhile, has given his backing to Jordan Pickford as England's first-choice goalkeeper after the Everton player received some criticism for his display in the loss to Belgium.
The 24-year-old has yet to keep a clean sheet in three games in Russia, but he retains Southgate's full support.
"I'm really pleased with his performances," the manager said. "He knows the belief I have in him.
"He is an important fit for the way we want to play. I don't think he's had much chance with the goals that have gone in. That can be a goalkeeper's lot at times.
"But he has to make sure he knows the views of those who are important and, like everyone else, cut himself away from the outside views that can start to inhibit your thinking."
Southgate also dismissed doubts over the quality of service to captain and main striker Harry Kane, even though he is the World Cup's leading scorer with five goals.
Two of Kane's goals resulted from corners, two came from the penalty spot and he completed his hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Panama with an unwitting deflection from Ruben Loftus-Cheek's shot.
Southgate said: "I think we've played really well. We didn't create as many outstanding opportunities against Belgium, but we had a couple. So I think the style of play and the interchange of positions of our forward players in particular has been really good.
"We'll just keep working at what we've been doing, and keep creating the chances we have. We've got guys who have shown they will finish those chances if we make them."
The latest World Cup Daily podcast will be available on Sunday night