Southgate, England ready to face the music
Gareth Southgate and England are ready to face the music.
No other football nation dwells on decades of failure quite like the English. Southgate was so demoralised by his penalty kick failure against Germany in the 1996 European Championship semifinals, he avoided The Lightning Seeds Three Lions, the team's official song when they hosted the tournament.
Now the song, with its repeated chorus of "football's coming home," is a staple again, No. 5 this week on YouTube UK's top music videos chart with more than 2 million views on the day of England's last match.
"'Football's coming home' is a song I couldn't even listen to for 20 years, frankly, so for me it has a slightly different feel," Southgate said yesterday on the eve of England's World Cup semifinal match against Croatia. "But it's nice to hear people enjoying it again."
When the song first was released, the chorus proclaimed "Three lions on a shirt/Jules Rimet still gleaming/Thirty years of hurt/never stopped me dreaming." A 1998 update changed the third verse to "no more years of hurt."
"It was a long time ago, so not too many of us can remember that far back," said midfielder Jordan Henderson, born in 1990.
The winners today advance to Sunday's final against France. Southgate wants to break stereotypes, and not just on the field.
"I'm rare breed. I'm an Englishman that doesn't drink tea," he said.
England and Croatia are teams that innovated over time but have generally been immutable during the World Cup, sticking to virtually identical starting line-ups except for group phase finales, after advancement was secure. In the other four games, Croatia's only variable to its 4-2-3-1 formation was whether to start captain Luka Modric in a deep midfield role and Andrej Kramaric more advanced, or to move up Modric and start Marcelo Brozovic.
Right back Sime Vrsaljko limped off during the quarterfinal win over host Russia and goalkeeper Danijel Subasic had a hamstring injury during extra time but remained in the match. When asked about injuries, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic responded through a translator with inconclusive palaver about Vrsaljko having "this niggle."
England has gone with a 3-5-2, and the only change was to start Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield after Dele Alli injured a thigh.
Venue: Luzhniki Stadium
Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
England: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling
Croatia: Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic
• This is the eighth meeting between England and Croatia. England have won four, Croatia two and one match ended in draw.
• England won 5-1 the last time the teams met in a 2009 World Cup qualification match.