Gareth Southgate: Semi-final would cap 'brilliant year' for England

England players celebrate Jesse Lingard's goal against USA
England have won nine of their 16 games in 2018

England are determined to reach another semi-final to top a "brilliant year", says manager Gareth Southgate.

A win over Croatia at Wembley on Sunday would give England top spot in their group and progression to the inaugural Uefa Nations League finals next summer.

The Three Lions reached the last four of the World Cup in Russia in the summer - their best showing since 1990.

"Whatever happens on Sunday, we've had real shoots of progress, achieving some outstanding results," said Southgate.

With one game remaining, England are second in Group A4 of the competition. A draw against Croatia would put Spain through while defeat would relegate England to League B of the Nations League.

Southgate added: "We were very keen that we moved on from the World Cup as quickly as possible. It has been a brilliant year.

"[We have had] really good performances and blooded a lot of new players. It has given us a real depth to the squad and competition for places.

"But I think everybody wants to go another stage and get to a semi-final out of a group which is as tough as there has been in this competition.

"It is a really good game for everybody to look forward to."

Sancho impresses Southgate

Former defender Southgate gave debuts to Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson and Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy in Thursday's 3-0 friendly victory over the United States.

Teenager Jadon Sancho was given his first international start after an impressive season in Germany with Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund and Southgate was particularly impressed by the winger.

"Some of the one-touch, two-touch football around the box was really exciting," Southgate said. "I thought Dele [Alli] and Jesse [Lingard] were both really good in that opening period as well.

"We talk a lot about a lack of creativity in English players, but when we're bringing on Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] and we have got Jadon, Jesse and Dele on there, and we know there are other players coming through the system, it is an exciting period.

"None of these lads are the finished article and Jadon is very raw. Some of his decision-making was really good and some not so good.

"We want him to try things and feel free enough in an England shirt to do those things. He can be really pleased with his first start."


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