Fabian Delph has Gareth Southgate‘s full support to be at the birth of his child rather than England’s crunch World Cup clash with Colombia – although the midfielder could yet make it back to Russia if the curries kick in.
All eyes will be on the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on Tuesday evening as the Three Lions attempt to win their first knockout match since 2006.
England approach the match fresh and injury-free, but their 23-man squad could well be a player light as delph flew back to the UK straight after starting last Thursday’s defeat to Belgium.
The Manchester City midfielder’s wife Natalie is expecting their third child and Southgate is fully behind his family first mindset, although the player has not given up on making the last-16 clash given by his attempts to bring on labour.
“The thought process is that some things in life are more important than football,” the England manager said. “His wife is due to go into labour.
“I’ve said all along to the players that this is a big tournament, but family is more important.
Huge respect for Fabian Delph putting family first. You will never see your first birth again and although I've never been in a world cup, being there for the birth of my son was the greatest human experience ever. #dadlife https://t.co/oZhXn9J3mw— Hai La (@larockhai) June 29, 2018
“I think it’s very important at times like this, that players who are family-orientated are supported by us.
“He has been exceptional. I mean, we’ve been so fortunate to have a squad of players whose character and spirit has formed an incredible bond.
“We’ve been away and he has been fundamental to that. I can’t speak highly enough of his character around the group.
“So he’s desperate to support us but also I think his focus needs be with his family at this time and he has my full support on that.
“He might be with us. He’s buying his wife curries and all sorts of things to try and aid the speed of process.
“But, for me, I think again it’s a bit of perspective in life because everybody says you only get one chance to be in a World Cup, but also there’s only one day in your life when your children are born.
“I know my father’s generation and those before them would view that differently, but you have got to be there for your family and that’s very important.”
Nacer Chadli rose from the substitutes’ bench to complete Belgium‘s comeback from 2-0 down against Japan in the dying embers of injury time and enter World Cup 2018’s quarter-finals with an epic 3-2 win.
The Samurai Blue emerged from a goalless first half to be two-goals ahead by 52 minutes through Genki Haraguchi’s breakaway and the outstanding Takashi Inui’s piledriver. A first entry into the last eight seemed set from that point.
But Roberto Martinez’s hotly tipped side weren’t done. Headers from Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini levelled things up by 74 minutes at Rostov Arena, before Chadli swept in a 94th-minute counter-attack to become the first nation since West Germany in 1970 to comeback from 2-0 behind in the World Cup’s knockouts.
Belgium will now play favourites Brazil in the next stage.
Croatia recovered from the concession of World Cup 2018’s quickest goal to draw 1-1 with Denmark at the end of extra time and then reach the quarter-finals on penalties through Ivan Rakitic’s clincher.
Danish centre-back Mathias Jorgensen wrote his name into the record books within a minute when his low shot inside a packed penalty box squeezed in. But Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic scuffed home on four minutes after the ball fortuitously rebounded off Denmark midfielder Andreas Christensen’s face.
Few chances of note then followed at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium as the promise from an exciting first half quickly ebbed away. Penalties seemed a given until Luka Modric picked a pass of rare genius and Mathias Jorgensen felled Ante Robic, but – watched on by legendary father Peter – goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel saved the former-mentioned’s effort from 12 yards on 116 minutes.
The shootout witnessed a pair of penalty misses apiece, before Nicolai Jorgensen’s third errant effort for the Danes was decisively punished by Rakitic.
Croatia’s reward is a last-eight tie against hosts Russia.