Gareth Southgate has told his players it is time to deliver on their potential and take a huge step towards the World Cup against Poland on Wednesday. The England manager wants his team to establish a five-point lead over their main qualification rivals, who will be without injured Robert Lewandowski and have suffered a number of Covid-19 positive tests.
Southgate’s young players have the European Championship this summer, but he says they cannot afford to miss out on reaching the most important tournament in football. “We can go five points clear in the group, and that is a really important opportunity for us,” Southgate said. “I know at the back of everyone’s mind there is a European Championship, but we’ve got qualifiers and it is crucial that we qualify. “If we are not taking charge of the group, all the talk of potential and what this young group of players might be, they won’t get the opportunity to play at a major finals. We have to make sure we get that right.
“We’ve been conscious all week that we want our performances to be at a high level and to get people excited about the team. It’s important people are excited by the players coming through, and I think it’s one of the things, in every sport, that excites fans. “You see young players, and you align that to success for a sustained period of time to come. But the reality of that is that we don’t know what they will go on to do and what they will achieve in the next two-to-five years and what their individual stories will be. We have some level-headed young players who will give themselves the best chance of success. It’s a healthy environment to develop, but we have to deliver.” Mason Mount missed part of training and Southgate will make a late call on the Chelsea midfielder starting at Wembley.
Jesse Lingard is pushing for another start following his recall and Declan Rice is set to play in midfield. While Southgate will rely on Harry Kane leading his attack on Wednesday and this summer, the manager says there are still places to fight for in his starting line-up. “To win a tournament it is not just about your starting XI,” he said. “You don’t know who will be available for different games. This week is an example of that with the players we have missing.
“We are fortunate that we have some depth and the players that have come in have done really well. In the past we were always worrying about losing one player and how it would affect the tournament, and that’s not a good situation to be in.” Grzegorz Krychowiak, who tested positive for coronavirus along with Kamil Piatkowski, was allowed to travel to London after a negative test. Mateusz Klich and Lukasz Skorupski previously tested positive for Covid.
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