Gareth Southgate insists there is more to come from his maturing England after they reached the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990.
Goals in either half from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli overcame Sweden 2-0 in Samara, with either hosts Russia or Croatia next on England’s agenda.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Southgate saluted the work ethic that has propelled his youthful squad to within a game of the World Cup final.
“We are a team that are still improving, we know where we are and we are having success because everybody is working hard on the field,” the England manager said.
“The collective has been key, all of the support staff, all of the players have been tight. To get through the two games we had this week, we needed all of that because we’re not the finished article.
“We don’t have renowned, world-class players yet but we’ve got lots of good young players who are showing on the young stage that they can be brave on the ball, try and play the right way, have shown some mental resilience.
“We know that in years to come they will be stronger but today was a huge opportunity for us and not something we wanted to miss out on.
“I’m so, so proud of what all of the players and all of the staff have done because we’ve got to this point because the collective has been so strong.
“We played an opponent today whose identity is clear and whose togetherness has at times been too much for us to handle over the years.
“To come on the back of a game where we had to go to the very depths emotionally and physically in midweek and be able to give what we gave today – control the game, but also withstand the physical test – was a real sign of resilience for a young team, who I think are really maturing in front of our eyes.”
England controlled the majority of their quarter-final against Sweden and could have added further gloss to the scoreline had they had their finishing boots on.
Further goals may have been needed had goalkeeper Jordan Pickford not been on hand with a host of crucial saves to quash Sweden’s second-half rally.
Southgate heralded the Everton stopper’s man of the match display, highlighting him as integral to the brand of football he wants England to play.
“Pickford is the sort of prototype a modern goalkeeper should be,” he added. “The number of touches you have with your feet is exceptionally high in the modern game, especially in European and international football.
“His speed around the goal, the saves he made at critical times and generally his distribution was excellent, picking out Trippier a few times.
“To be able to play the way I want to play moving forward we need goalkeeper of that ilk.”
Another standout performer for England was Leicester defender Maguire, who headed his side into the lead with his first international goal.
“Maguire has been a giant in both boxes right throughout the tournament,” Southgate said.
“When I was watching him during the season I was so keen that he stayed fit because this is a stage I was certain he could play at.
“I’m not sure he’s always believed that but he’s a super talent, a super player and his use of the ball is as good as any defender in the tournament.
“Hopefully he’s gaining belief from the performances at this level. We’ve scored set-play goals because of him, today he got the goal he deserved.”
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