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England V Tunisia 1900 BST BBC1


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I'm looking forward to this, but I worry we are underestimating Tunisia. 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/44514096

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England are decamping from the serenity and seclusion of their Repino retreat to join the heat of World Cup battle in Volgograd's searing temperatures.

Gareth Southgate's squad have been hidden away behind the wooden gates of their hotel on the Gulf of Finland, when not at their Zelenogorsk training base a short distance away.

They now fly to the historic city where they will open their World Cup campaign against Tunisia on Monday.

An open house public relations approach, coupled with the mood of calm that has surrounded England, has provided a sure-footed countdown to the first game - but now it gets serious.

Time to turn smooth PR into World Cup success


England and the Football Association have embarked on a successful charm offensive to ensure a World Cup build-up without a wrinkle. It seems the nation actually likes this team after the days of WAGs and industrial-scale failure at major tournaments.

The nation will like them even more if they beat Tunisia - but World Cups can be a fickle business and any amount of bridge-building can be brought down by one bad result.

This is why so much hinges on events in Volgograd on Monday.

There has been a bonding (of sorts) between squad and media. The "Super Bowl" press day in the Futsal Hall at St George's Park, with all 23 players available for interview, was a pipe dream made real while the relationship has continued in Repino's Cronwell Park Hotel, where interviews are conducted and a darts challenge has been organised.

It's all very human. All very common touch. There are the stories of players watching Love Island - ITV2 was chosen as one of the four channels they could have screened in their hotel - and fierce competition over the computer game Fortnite.

This team is the image of Southgate, a civilised human being with a touch of steel many still do not recognise.

Even the traditional debate over team selection and formation has taken a back seat, with Southgate settling on a three-man defensive system while watching England Under-21s at the European Championship in Poland last summer.

Minor selection debates have taken place, such as Dele Alli's potential position and the battle between Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier in central midfield, but there has been nothing to overshadow the general feeling of harmony.

This feels very different to the mood of two years ago. One of the early signs of England's siege mentality at Euro 2016 was goalkeeper Joe Hart's unsmiling refusal to answer amiable and well-meaning questions about a darts tournament organised by players on the first day of media activity.

It set a needlessly hostile tone and ultimately Hart's own dreadful performance came to symbolise a tournament where England got so much wrong on and off the pitch.

Fast forward to Russia 2018, and there is now a darts challenge under way between players and media - although Gary Cahill, Jordan Pickford and Dele Alli have already given England a 3-0 lead over the press, one that shows every likelihood of being extended.

Southgate gave an insight into his thinking when he told BBC Sport: "What I said to everybody was: 'If you had a blank canvas in your area of work, then what would it look like?' The communications guys had an idea.

"The players are used to getting their own message out there - to tell their story is really important. I've worked on tournaments with the media around - and know what is needed. I understand that media outlets need content. If you have one player talk each day, then it's difficult for people to fill their newspapers.

"If the players are going to perform well, then they need to be relaxed. In our hotel, there are 23 mates having fun - playing basketball in their spare time. Our preparation is good and our training is good."

They are nice touches and the darts is a move away from more uncooperative times - but it will count for nothing if England fail to get the job done against Tunisia or falter against Panama and Belgium.

Southgate's managerial mindset


Southgate kept public appearances and utterances to a minimum after arriving in Russia. But his body language reflects what we have seen in England's squad since touchdown.

He looks relaxed and assured but is not avoiding the weight of responsibility that will be carried into the sweeping Volgograd Arena.

The manager offers context to an England squad containing youth and experience, from his own anguish over having a penalty saved in the Euro 96 semi-final shootout defeat by Germany, through the lessons learned under managers as varied in approach as Terry Venables and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

He cut an impressive figure in his final pre-match briefing, hitting the right notes in his call for "brave, bold attacking football" but also impressing his Russian hosts with his grasp of Volgograd's historic significance.

Under its former name, Stalingrad, it was the site of a symbolic battle during World War Two. As a monument to that battle, The Motherland Calls - the tallest statue in Europe - dominates the skyline.

Southgate said: "We are aware of the history of the city and the importance of that battle in the Second World War. To see the statue in the city reminds you that some things are even bigger than football and that's good perspective for us all."

The manager was an impressive front man as England arrived on the western bank of the Volga in an environment where temperatures in the 30s provide a sharp contrast to the mild climate from Repino.

His most important task, though - the one that truly shapes a managerial reputation - starts when England kick off against Tunisia.

England's minimum requirement

Simple. Victory.

It is time England got off the back foot at a major tournament and started with a win.

It is no coincidence that England's last respectable showing in one of these showpieces came on the last occasion they opened with a win, against Paraguay at the 2006 World Cup.

They have since made life difficult for themselves, establishing an accident-prone reputation.

The roll of dishonour is lengthy. Goalkeeper Rob Green's error cost England an opening victory against the United States in South Africa in 2010; defeat by Italy in Brazil four years later set the tone for a group-stage exit. The careless concession of a late equaliser against Russia led to the scars of Euro 2016.

England have previous for carelessness and it must stop in Volgograd.

If the big players - such as Alli and captain Harry Kane - join the World Cup party started by Cristiano Ronaldo's immense display for Portugal against Spain on Friday, then Volgograd can be the start of a satisfying Russian journey for England.

 

engtun lineup.png

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Kane's interview yesterday was probably the least English football interview I've ever seen. 

Talking about how Ronaldo is already 3 goals ahead of him and how he's now going to have to score a hat trick to catch up. 

We 100% are over confident. 

I think I like it. 

Makes a change from the usual tepid coulds and maybes. 

We're going to smash them hard! 

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Nerves setting in now.  Work has said we can leave early if we want to so heading to Clapham with mates. Don't normally like watching England anywhere but alone in the dark in my front room.

I mean we should beat Tunisia but look at some of the surprising results so far. Then look at our opening game record and Tunisia didn't do too badly in their friendlies either. Hard not to be pessimistic anymore! 

Love Raheem the Dream to bag a brace and shut the Sun and Mail up

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I'm pretty confident about it. England appear to have a proper tactic, the right players and the perfect attitude of just on the edge of confidence/arrogance.

I'm going for a comfortable 2-0 win.

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I keep hearing 'we're under estimating them' but we have no idea who is actually doing that, all everyone says is how we're under estimating them and no one has heard anything of the sort from the team.

Kane commenting how he needs to score goals now is confidence, that's what I want to hear, it's not under estimating them.

I think if we don't approach the game as a bag of nerves we should get a result but we're used to the team being parallelised with fear. I don't want to hear any 'the media, the media' ******** excuse for not being able to play football, grow the feck up!

We have heard it ALL in the last 20 years, the 'we know what we did wrong' - 'we won't make the same mistakes' - 'this is the best group' - it's time to shut up and play, stop telling us and show us. All the right noises are coming from the England camp and Southgate but we've heard this before too.

Come one, England!

 

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34 minutes ago, Astafjevs said:

England will win comfortably and look impressive in doing so. On paper, that might be one of the worst African teams here, and they've all been bad so far

We can never, ever, ever take anything for granted!

We have to approach this the right way

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56 minutes ago, RTHerringbone said:

We're ranked 12th in the world and Tunisia are 21st. That's higher than the likes of Iceland and Sweden whose recent results against us have been decent. I'm not confident! 

We last played Sweden in 2012. Not sure if a game 6 years ago counts as recent.

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59 minutes ago, RTHerringbone said:

We're ranked 12th in the world and Tunisia are 21st. That's higher than the likes of Iceland and Sweden whose recent results against us have been decent. I'm not confident! 

The FIFA world rankings are always totally meaningless. I don't know how on earth they work them out, but there is always some crazy **** going on with them.

This is a team we should be beating comfortably, absolutely no question. I mean, we won't, but we should.

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46 minutes ago, Wigmore said:

The FIFA world rankings are always totally meaningless. I don't know how on earth they work them out, but there is always some crazy **** going on with them.

This is a team we should be beating comfortably, absolutely no question. I mean, we won't, but we should.

they're not terrible, it takes account of results in friendlies and stuff

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56 minutes ago, skybluedave said:

And we beat them in 2012

We lost 4-2 in a friendly (the one where Zlatan scored that overhead kick) later in the year. Still an odd case to cite considering it was a different manager and largely different players too.

 

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1 minute ago, Crispypaul said:

We lost 4-2 in a friendly (the one where Zlatan scored that overhead kick) later in the year. Still an odd case to cite considering it was a different manager and largely different players too.

 

Hang on didn't we beat them at Euro 2012?

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2 minutes ago, Pukey said:

After we played Costa Rica I saw a comment on BBC live text saying we shouldn't even take Sterling and that we should always play Rashford :D

That's because people who text comments on that are always idiots.

Sterling is a great player and should be one of the first choices on the team sheet along with Kane and Walker.

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Bench Sterling :D Ffs, do people not see the amount of chances he creates for us and even by his movement giving Kane more space around the box? Yes he misses a load for England, but at least he’s always working himself into those positions like against Nigeria. Rashford smashes in one worldie (that a taller keeper saves with ease) and people just fixate on that.

Sterling and Lingard receiving the ball on the half turn and immediately running at defences is the key for us to do well in this tournament because it straight away scares the **** out of teams as shown so far when they face runners, and gets the ball a lot closer to goal for Kane just to smash it every time when he’s within 22 yards of goal.

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1 minute ago, Crispypaul said:

That's because people who text comments on that are always idiots.

Sterling is a great player and should be one of the first choices on the team sheet along with Kane and Walker.

It really made me laugh. Just imagine dropping a guy with 18 goals and however many assists because a guy scored a good goal against Costa Rica. Especially when you can take both quite comfortably anyway :D

Agree with you that Sterling, Kane, and Walker should be the most nailed on starters. 

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Sterling is probably our best player, or at least top 2/3. But we do struggle to seem to get best out of him. Probably because we clearly aren't Man City.

Ideal world he has a good game and bags a goal and can carry that confidence throughout the tournament. Because we'll need him flying at his best if we are to do well. 

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Sterling is an excellent footballer and should be considered a key player for England - there's no debate to be had over that and certainly no debate to be had over whether he should be playing or not!

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52 minutes ago, pearcey_90 said:

Bench Sterling :D Ffs, do people not see the amount of chances he creates for us and even by his movement giving Kane more space around the box? Yes he misses a load for England, but at least he’s always working himself into those positions like against Nigeria. Rashford smashes in one worldie (that a taller keeper saves with ease) and people just fixate on that.

Sterling and Lingard Wilshere receiving the ball on the half turn and immediately running at defences would have been the key for us to do well in this tournament because it straight away scares the **** out of teams as shown so far when they face runners, and gets the ball a lot closer to goal for Kane just to smash it every time when he’s within 22 yards of goal. 

;) 

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Watching this at home. Hate watching England in pubs because people just annoy me with their **** opinions. Everyone's opinion is ****, apart from mine. 

Although, have planned to watch the Belgium game in a pub, so that should be interesting 

Wouldn't it be great if it was a comfortable win with no drama whatsoever. 

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11 minutes ago, Barry Cartman said:

Called back tracking 

Actually I've said on several occasions how I was initially completely wrong about Sterling. Feel free to keep bringing it up in every thread until eternity though.

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3 minutes ago, Bliss Seeker said:

Watching this at home. Hate watching England in pubs because people just annoy me with their **** opinions. Everyone's opinion is ****, apart from mine. 

Although, have planned to watch the Belgium game in a pub, so that should be interesting 

Wouldn't it be great if it was a comfortable win with no drama whatsoever. 

i've been asked over and over am I going to the pub, no, I like my home

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*Should* be a comfortable win for England but this is England so it probably won't work like that if we judge previous tournaments however with this squad it just feels a little different, in a good way. I'm liking this apparent confidence from the players, they clearly love the system we now employ and enjoy working with Southgate, there's a sense of enjoyment from the players when they're on international duty now, something we've not seen for probably 20 years. 

We've got a world class striker which helps of course. 

I'm quietly confident with this bunch of players, Southgate has got them playing well and enjoying their football for England which in itself is a win already. 

I'm going for a 2-0 England win. 

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9 minutes ago, Baptista_8 said:

Actually I've said on several occasions how I was initially completely wrong about Sterling. Feel free to keep bringing it up in every thread until eternity though.

So why would you leave him on the bench?

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16 minutes ago, Bliss Seeker said:

Watching this at home. Hate watching England in pubs because people just annoy me with their **** opinions. Everyone's opinion is ****, apart from mine. 

Although, have planned to watch the Belgium game in a pub, so that should be interesting 

Wouldn't it be great if it was a comfortable win with no drama whatsoever. 

None of the African teams have been any good so far and Tunisia were hardly challenged in qualifying - Mauritania in the play off round then Guinea, DRC and Libya in the groups.

Hopefully we'll repeat the 1998 result.

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11 minutes ago, Barry Cartman said:

So why would you leave him on the bench?

I'm just one of the very few that's yet to be fully convinced by him. Not gonna go into it as I know it's not a popular opinion!

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