Southgate challenge England team to make history against France

Gareth Southgate propelled the England squad ahead of their World Cup quarter-final against France, challenging his side to make history in Qatar.

The Three Lions overcame Senegal in the round of 16 to clinch a draw against the defending champions, presenting England’s biggest showing yet in the tournament.

Defeat to Didier Deschamps’ side would mark England’s first exit from a major tournament under Southgate, who guided the team to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia and finished as runners-up to Italy at Euro 2020.

While these improvements are significant, England have encountered a crucial hurdle against tough opponents in each of these tournaments: they lost 2-1 to Croatia in 2018 before a heartbreaking shoot-out defeat at Wembley last year.

Southgate has used that record to issue a challenge to his team, identifying that winning away games against top opposition is something that has yet to be achieved.

“We’ve made quite a lot of history in the last four or five years, not all of it good, but that’s the big challenge,” he said.

“When you go back in tournaments, you see the teams that knocked out England. We weren’t able to do that [win an away knockout against elite opposition] so this is the next test for this team.

“We’ve had a lot of experience with those moments and they know they’ve had to win games in different ways; they’ve had to come from behind in the big games.

“What we talked about against Senegal was keeping the pressure going, not sitting down when we were ahead, making sure we keep the intensity of our game going. We have to do it now against the world champions.”

England’s success under Southgate is very different from its predecessors, where disappointing tournament exits were the norm, which led Southgate to identify the difficulties faced on the international stage and stressed that bringing in young players early was crucial.

“There were a lot of moments where playing for England was difficult. It’s a different kind of challenge for your club. It’s much more careful,” he explained.

“So you have to be able to handle that. When we select players, we’re looking at their ability to handle it mentally as much as anything else.

“The young guys who have come in are showing it. But you never know until these moments are what it’s going to be like.

“Against Senegal we had many appearances on the pitch, even the younger ones, because we bloodied them early.”

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