England's Eric Dier hoping for more Gareth Southgate-inspired karaoke music after Croatia clash

Rory Dollard 10/07/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Eric Dier is hoping for another blast of Gareth Southgate‘s “karaoke tunes” after England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia.

While Love Island and Fortnite continue to dominate down-time in the team hotel in Repino, Southgate and his backroom team are in charge of the playlist when the team bus returns victorious from the airport.

Southgate could not recall the selection he and his coaching staff put together for the team after Saturday’s quarter-final win over Sweden, but Dier had his own take.

While he was unable to identify specific tracks – blaming a combination of low decibels and generational divide – the experience clearly left an impression.

“I don’t know if they’re embarrassed about their music or the speakers are bad… it’s quite hard to hear at the back of the bus,” he said.

“They don’t put the volume up very loud – they try to keep the volume enough so that only they can hear it. But they like a lot of their… I call them karaoke tunes. Ones you can sing along to, old school ’80s and ’90s.

“There are some good ones in there, the players enjoy listening to them too, they’ve had a few sing-alongs on the way back from games and hopefully that will continue on Wednesday.”

England football team arrives

There is, of course, more to England’s unlikely success in Russia than a judicious selection of songs and a few hard yards on the training pitch.

One of the extra measures brought in by Southgate was the appointment of Dr Pippa Grange, owner of a doctorate in applied psychology and the Football Association’s head of team and people development since November.

Grange has been part of the FA’s travelling backroom team, on hand to help the country’s best technical players with the mental side of the game.

Dier was composed enough to slot home the winning penalty against Colombia in the last 16 and praised Grange’s work to date.

“I think a lot of the work that we’ve done with her has been prior to the tournament starting, the last six or seven months,” he said.

“Lots of the groundwork was done then. She’s helped us in the same way throughout the whole tournament, it’s never changed depending on how far we’ve come or depending on the magnitude of the games.”

“Everything we’ve done, not just with Pippa but in general, just making sure we’ve just had consistency throughout… I’m sure that’s really helped everyone and helped keep a really good environment within the camp.”

Dier’s Tottenham team-mate Dele Alli is also appreciative of her efforts.

“She’s done a lot of work with us, more so leading into the World Cup before we got out here. She’s an amazing person,” he said.

“You can see how hard she works and she really knows what she’s talking about. She’s helped us a lot. She’s done a lot of stuff with us, takes a lot of meetings. Everyone listens to her when she talks.”

Alli did not say whether Grange had cast her psychologist’s eye over his lengthy list of pre-match rituals.

“I have a lot of superstitions. There are so many,” he admitted.

“I do all my right leg first, then all my left leg. I have an eight-minute ice-bath the night before. I don’t know why – it’s just a superstition.

“I always say a prayer, the same prayer, before. You might’ve noticed there’s tape on my knee now. That’s a superstition as well – I don’t like taking it off.

“I took it off for the first game (against Tunisia) – this is a bit of a silly superstition – but the first game here was the first game in ages I haven’t had it on, and I got injured, so I’m going to be keeping it on again.”

Most popular

Nutmegging Luka Modric, snubbed by Danny Welbeck; England's Dele Alli recalls path to World Cup

Rory Dollard 10/07/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Dele Alli has come a long way in a short time, and is now preparing for the biggest game of his career.

The experiences that brought him to a World Cup semi-final include being snubbed by a current England team-mate, nutmegging Luka Modric and Euro 2016 heartbreak against Iceland.

Alli, who scored the second goal in England’s 2-0 win quarter-final win over Sweden on Saturday, says he does not get nervous but agreed that Wednesday’s clash against Croatia is his grandest stage yet.

An apt time, then, to reflect on his road from the MK Dons youth system to the Luzhniki Stadium.

Asked to name his toughest experience in the lower leagues, the 22-year-old Tottenham midfielder barely missed a beat before answering “Bradford away”.

It was February 2015 and Alli scored in a 2-1 defeat at Valley Parade, but neither that, nor the appearance of England number one Jordan Pickford in goal for the Bantams, is lodged in his mind.

“It was a night game, the pitch was horrible,” he said. “It was a horrible game. They were very aggressive and it wasn’t a nice day. Every time I got the ball people would be kicking, swearing.

Dele Alli (R) and striker Danny Welbeck

“There are a lot of different paths you can take to getting to the England senior team.”

Rewind six months from that match and Alli was announcing himself as one to watch with a confident performance in a shock League Cup win for MK Dons over Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United.

The League One side recorded a stunning 4-0 win but Alli was still a wide-eyed teenager, who sought out United striker Danny Welbeck for a souvenir shirt.

The suggestion was politely rebuffed – a fact the pair are now able to laugh about as England colleagues in Russia.

“Me and Danny Welbeck have a joke about it because I asked him for his shirt,” Alli laughed.

“We speak about it now. He wouldn’t give it to me. I think he wanted to keep that shirt but he was polite about it. He was really nice. I wasn’t going to give him mine – I just wanted his.”

Come Wednesday it could be Croatia star Modric that Alli will want to swap jerseys with.

The pair will both be key in the battle for midfield supremacy and have previous with each other – including Tottenham’s Champions League win over Real Madrid last November.

Alli had yet to play a competitive game for Spurs when he nutmegged Modric in a 2015 pre-season friendly – earning a cheerful rebuke from his more established opponent.

alli modric

“I remember it… he said something,” Alli recalled with a smile.

“I always enjoy a good nutmeg. I didn’t shout ‘megs’. I have never done that, even in training. Some people when they nutmeg (someone), they call it, but it’s never been something I’ve done.”

Asked if a repeat performance was on the cards, he said: “Nutmeg him? Hopefully! But I’m not going to focus on that.”

Not all of Alli’s memorable moments are good ones, with the nadir being England’s Euro 2016 exit to Iceland.

Thinking back to a time when a World Cup final must have seemed an implausible prospect, Alli said: “Straight after that game you want the floor to eat you up.

“You want to hide and not come out of your room. You want to forget about it and lock yourself away. When Gareth came in it was the first time we relived it. You don’t want to watch it back but we know how important it was, going into the World Cup, that we had to go back through it to come out stronger.”

Most popular

Antoine Griezmann versus Eden Hazard and other key battles that could decide Belgium v France

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Giroud, Griezmann, Hazard, and Lukaku take centre stage in the semi-final.

France and Belgium have charted similar paths to their World Cup semi-final clash on Tuesday. The two European neighbours rely on high-flying attacks led by some of the best players in the world.

While other stars have been hogging the limelight for France, Antoine Griezmann has gone slightly unnoticed, but he’s served as an excellent chief creator for his team – much like Eden Hazard has for Belgium, in more show-stopping, headline-grabbing ways.

The two men, along with their respective striker partners Olivier Giroud and Romelu Lukaku, hold the hopes of their nations at their feet as a place in the final is on the line, and they headline our key battles for the match at Saint Petersburg (22:00 UAE time).

Antoine Griezmann vs Eden Hazard

Griezmann hasn’t quite burst into life at the World Cup, but he’s been exactly what France have needed him to be. His interventions have rarely been spectacular – his three goals are two penalties and a goalkeeping error – but his vision, passing, pace and movement have been crucial to Les Bleus’ success.

His link-up play with Giroud and Kylian Mbappe has been a standout feature of his game, but it’s the understanding he has on the pitch with Paul Pogba that truly makes France tick. The partnerships with all three are why Griezmann is at the heart of France’s best play.

That’s exactly the sort of role Hazard has been craving on a stage like this.

This is arguably the biggest moment of his career, and Hazard’s been performing almost with an air of nonchalance – as if he realises that he’s simply delivering on a promise, finally fulfilling expectations for a Belgian public that has been waiting for both player and team to play like this for a long time.

Hazard’s form in Russia has vaulted him into the Ballon d’Or conversation. Another telling display in the semi-final – and then perhaps a final – would go a long way in boosting his case.

0709 Griezmann vs Hazard

Olivier Giroud vs Romelu Lukaku

Giroud hasn’t scored a goal, hasn’t even had a shot on target for France this tournament, and yet he’s undroppable.

His role as a target man for France allows players like Mbappe and Griezmann to run off him and get into space. Mbappe, especially, has benefitted from the attention Giroud commands just through his presence, as it allows him to use his pace to its fullest effect.

France’s success at the tournament has kept the talk around Giroud’s own lack of production down to a relative minimum. But wouldn’t he love to bury it completely?

Lukaku can serve as a target man just as well as Giroud can, if not better. His play as a focal point for Belgium’s attack, coupled with his pace and link-up play, has unlocked the Red Devils’ counter-attacking ability, and in their stunning quarter-final win over Brazil he showcased his adaptability, playing in the unfamiliar position of right winger and doing so with aplomb.

He’s likely to be reverted to his usual position against France – not that it will reduce Belgium’s potential to be devastating. For a player in Lukaku’s form, with the Golden Boot a real possibility, history beckons.

0709 Giroud vs Lukaku

Raphael Varane vs Vincent Kompany

Raphael Varane is still developing as a defender – unsurprising, given he’s only 25 – but there have been signs this summer that he is coming into his own at the heart of his national team’s defence.

He looks far more assured and commanding than his centre-back colleague, Samuel Umtiti – not to mention, a greater threat in the opposition box. Varane’s movement to get free for his goal in the quarter-final against Uruguay would have made a centre-forward proud.

The challenge now is to build on that performance against the toughest attack France have faced in this tournament.

Vincent Kompany, on the other end of his career compared to Varane, has made his latest recovery from injury at the perfect time for Belgium. He put in a warrior-like display against Brazil, and it was clear how much the moment meant to him. His career has been blighted by injuries – his 80 international caps are ten fewer than Hazard, five years his junior – and seeing Belgium underachieve before this tournament will have hurt him more than most.

But Belgium finally playing up to their potential gives Kompany a shot at the biggest glory of his career. He will be craving a win on Tuesday more than anyone else.

0709 Varane vs Kompany

Most popular