I AM so pleased for Gareth Southgate for the praise he is getting regarding the way he is managing England at this World Cup.
The doubt was there from everyone beforehand, across the media and public alike. But the way he has managed the team from the start and his preparation have been spot-on so far.
He has become a very likeable figure and no matter what happens now he has got the job to the end of the Euros.
Gareth has shown that man-management and preparation can go such a long way. He has definitely nailed that down to a tee.
His skills have really come to the fore and I think he is just made for international football management. He really fits the mould and has been outstanding.
He seems exactly the same as Chris Coleman, who did a great job with Wales. I just hope Gareth stays with international football for a while yet. Coleman made the mistake of going to Sunderland and it just did not work out for him.
Gareth’s skills have really come to the fore and I think he is just made for international football management. He really fits the mould and has been outstanding.Darren Gough
Beforehand we all said England would reach the quarter-finals, so where we are now is what people expected. The daft thing is I still do not know if we are playing well or not.
The draw was always in our favour to get to the quarters. Now we have a favourable run to the final, but Sweden will be tough today. My main worry is that we are scoring from set-pieces and penalties and look dangerous, but not from open play.
You wonder if Gareth might change it today, although I do not think he will. Yet looking at Dele Alli I do not think he has been 100 per cent fit. He has just not had that spark about him.
I actually feel Raheem Sterling is still getting a lot of unnecessary stick. He still does a lot of work for the team. He was trying to creating space against Colombia and was always putting pressure on them.
A big plus for me has been the back three. Kyle Walker has still not been at his best, but John Stones and Harry Maguire have been outstanding. Jordan Pickford has impressed, too, and what was the stick that Thibaut Courtois gave him all about? He is better than Courtois all day long.
The one thing I love about World Cups is that when it starts, many of us think, ‘I am only bothered about my club and not England’. But wherever you go in the world and England are in action it changes. It brings us together.
The atmosphere has been electric and, having got out to Russia, I know that more than most. In terms of watching the England games I saw one in the Scilly Isles, a remote island. Even though it was the quietest one of the lot you still saw the locals in the town with England shirts on.
I watched another in an Irish bar in Dubai, which was full of England fans. It was unbelievable. Then I watched the Colombia game in a pub over here.
Looking at Colombia they were one of the dirtiest teams I have ever seen with their tricks. It goes to show that football still has a great problem in parts of the world and some countries in South America seem to be worse than anywhere for the ‘dark arts’.
I was actually surprised with a statistic that said that Uruguay, prior to the quarter-finals, had the best disciplinary record of those still in the World Cup. I used to consider Uruguay to be like Colombia, whose players were disgraceful from start to finish.
Now it’s Sweden and, if we win, I will go back to Russia tomorrow for the semi-finals. It is a great story; I hope it is not finished yet.
Can you just imagine the atmosphere if England got to the final? Going around in the last week the atmosphere has been great. The pubs will be buzzing, although I do not get the practice of throwing beer around. Where I am from you do not waste it.
It has been a great World Cup. We have only had one really poor game and that was Denmark v France. Croatia versus Denmark was not great, but we had the penalty drama.
As for my latest World Cup team of the week there have been a number of changes.
I was going to plump for Russia’s Igor Akinfeev in goal, but just have to go for Pickford now.
In terms of my back three I have gone for Japan’s Maya Yoshida and Maguire and Stones.
In midfield I have Benjamin Pavard, of France, alongside compatriot N’Golo Kante. Then I have opted for Croatia’s Luca Modric with Japan’s Yuto Nagatomo at left-wing back.
Up front I have Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani, who lit up the last 16, alongside Neymar, even accounting for his antics. Harry Kane is on the bench. He was not brilliant on Tuesday, but worked so hard for the team, despite getting seven bells kicked out of him.