England boss Gareth Southgate keen to make 'as few changes as possible' for Belgium game

Andy Hampson 13/07/2018
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England manager Gareth Southgate intends to keep changes to a minimum as his side take on Belgium in the World Cup‘s third-place play-off.

It has been suggested Southgate could radically alter his team to give some of his fringe players a run-out as England bow out in Russia in the bronze-medal match in St Petersburg.

But while Southgate will assess the fitness levels of his players, he does not want to deviate too far from what has become a settled line-up.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Southgate said: “We have to decide who can go again physically. Everyone wants to play but sometimes it is not a good decision to play someone if their energy is not quite there.

“We have to think who can give us the best performance. It won’t be the same XI but, ideally, we want to make as few changes as possible.”

Southgate admits it has been tough to come to terms with Wednesday’s semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Croatia but he insists motivation will not be a problem this weekend.

He said: “Emotionally it has been a difficult few days but the players are incredible. They are a pleasure to work with. They have an energy and desire.

“We want to finish the tournament well. We have set a standard of how we work and how we play and we want to aspire to that level every time we go out.

“We have high motivation to perform. We have a chance to win a medal at a World Cup, which only one other English team has ever done.

“There is a lot of motivation for us and Belgium have already beaten us, so we would like to address that as well.”

England’s hopes of winning a first World Cup since 1966 may be over but Southgate is pleased with the progress that has been made. He feels the team has not only improved on the field but perceptions of the national side at home have also been changed.

He said: “If we want to play for England we have to deal with expectation. We have raised expectation and I don’t have a problem with that because we have also raised belief in the players.a 

“And they now see playing for England as enjoyment, fun and not feeling under siege. There is an energy and connection back.”

England captain Harry Kane did not feature in England’s loss to Belgium in the group stages but he will go into the game looking to add to the tournament-leading six goals he has already scored.

Southgate said: “We have a captain whose first thought all tournament has been how can he help the team to progress.

“He was was totally on board with us not playing him in the first game against Belgium. It would be more powerful for him to win the Golden Boot having made that sacrifice.”

England will make a low-key return home on Sunday, with no team parade planned.

Southgate said: “It was not my decision but I agree with the decision. If we make the final maybe it is different. If we have a parade that would have been in one part of the country and we represent the whole country.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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English FA confirm a low-key return when Gareth Southgate's side arrive home

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The national team trained on Friday ahead of the third-place play-off on Saturday

England’s World Cup semi-finalists are planning a low-key return from Russia on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate’s young squad ripped up the script to reach the tournament’s last four for the first time since 1990, losing to Croatia after extra time in Moscow on Wednesday evening.

But their return will be a much quieter affair than the one that greeted Sir Bobby Robson’s side after their heroics in Italy.

England are due to fly from St Petersburg to Birmingham on Sunday – the day after facing Belgium in the third-place play-off – and the Football Association has confirmed that there will be no public access for fans, given airport security restrictions.

There are also no public celebrations planned despite the Three Lions’ impressive achievements in Russia, which could yet see them become the most successful team since the 1966 champions.

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Real Madrid headline our Rumour Mill as mega Eden Hazard bid is prepared

Chris Bailey 13/07/2018
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As the World Cup draws to its conclusion there’s another way to get your football fix – by keeping your ear to the ground for the latest transfer stories.

There’s a near competitive-football-free month for most of Europe’s clubs – and beyond – to get deals done, and it could spark a mad scramble with the Premier League’s transfer window slamming shut on August 9.

Here, we look at the latest transfer deals that could happen very soon.

Let us know your thoughts via Twitter and Facebook.

EDEN HAZARD

Should Real Madrid abandon their potentially fruitless pursuit of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, they will realign their sights from Paris to across the English channel.

According to the Daily Mail, Real have been suitably impressed by Eden Hazard after the Chelsea star lit up the World Cup with ankle-breaking dribbles for Belgium.

Hazard, 27, has two years left on his contract at Chelsea. But as the club prepares for the Maurizio Sarri era, it could cost the La Liga powerhouse £150 million to grab their Cristiano Ronaldo replacement from London.

EdenHazardUnitedChelseaFACup (1)

HARRY MAGUIRE

Harry Maguire to Manchester United speculation has frequented these pages in the last few months but, now England’s World Cup dreams are over, it is set to gather more pace.

Daily Mail columnist Charlie Sale says the Red Devils are ‘expected’ to stump up £50m for the large-skulled defender who is called ‘Slabhead’ by his Leicester team-mate Jamie Vardy.

With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling consistently injured and inconsistently good, World Cup stand-out Maguire could be moving to Old Trafford just one year on from leaving Hull for £17m.

HarryMaguireEnglandColombia (1)
LUCAS DIGNE

A double Everton raid on Barcelona? It could well be happening after the Daily Mirror reported that the Toffees want to bring left-back Lucas Digne to Goodison Park as well as centre-back Yerry Mina.

Digne only mustered 20 appearances for Barca last year, well behind in favour compared to Jordi Alba, and could not even make the France squad ahead of a half-fit Benjamin Mendy.

He’s been offered an escape route by Everton – with a 33-year-old Leighton Baines coming to the end of his career and Celtic’s Kieran Tierney thought too pricey at £25m.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 09: Lucas Digne of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Rodri Hernandez of Villarreal CF during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at Camp Nou on May 9, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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