Jesse Lingard is enjoying Gareth Southgate’s “new revolution” and vowed that England will retain their fearless approach amid increasing World Cup pressure.
Colombia lie in wait in the last 16 tomorrow in Moscow where the Three Lions will attempt to reach the quarter-finals with a first knockout win since 2006.
It is a mouth-watering opportunity for England’s young squad after promising Group G wins against Tunisia and Panama, when performances as much as results helped bring about renewed positivity around the national team.
Lingard cannot wait for tomorrow’s match and believes a bright future lies ahead under Southgate, who gave the attacking midfielder his debut on his first match in charge of the England team.
“It feels like a new revolution,” the attacking midfielder said.
“The manager has come in with great ideas and a great idea of how he wants us to play.
“The formation suits us perfectly and as a group of lads.
“It’s a youthful squad but we’ve still got experienced players in there and the team spirit is amazing at the moment – everyone has come together and is really bonding.
“We’re excited, we’re enjoying the World Cup and we have just got to keep going now.”
But excitement goes hand in hand with tension at this juncture, with England teams of the past failing to cope with mounting pressure.
“We don’t need to change too much,” said Lingard, playing at his first senior tournament.
“No matter what round we’re in we’re still going to play the same. We’re going to play with no fear and play with that freedom.
“That’s what got us here today, so why change? We won’t change for anyone or any team.
“I think everyone’s excited more than anything
“It’s a great chance for us as players to really go far in this competition and we believe in ourselves that we can do that.
“At this moment in time it’s game by game.
“We prepare for every game and every opponent is different, so we go into the game with the same mindset and the same goal.”
Lingard will “enjoy the occasion” tomorrow rather than worry about the possibility of having to pack his bags and head home the following day.
The 25-year-old cannot help but dream of a return to Moscow for the July 15 finale, yet the focus now is on overcoming a Colombia side boasting a variety of threats – including former Manchester United team-mate Radamel Falcao.
“A great finisher,” he said of the striker, who struggled at Chelsea after a difficult spell at Old Trafford. “I think in and around the box he’s lethal. We’ll be aware of that. But, you know, we’ve got the men to deal with that.
“I think they’re a great side. A tough side, a physical side, so we’re aware of that. But our qualities and our threats can cause them problems too.”
Lingard never got to play a competitive match alongside Falcao, with the attacking midfielder ending the 2014-15 season on loan at Derby as he recovered from a knee ligament injury sustained on his United debut.
That injury on the opening day of the campaign could easily have meant his first United appearance was his last, yet the late developer has kicked on and become a key figure under Jose Mourinho.
“He’s been great with me,” Lingard said of the Portuguese, who backed England as World Cup winners before the tournament.
“He’s put that trust and faith in me to play me in big matches week-in, week-out.
“It was only up to me then to repay that faith by playing well and putting in performances.
“He’s played a massive part in my development and I can only thank him for that.”
Lingard says that no one in the England squad will shy away from taking a penalty should the team have to cope with yet another dreaded shoot-out at the World Cup in Russia. With the competition now at its knockout stage, extra-time and penalties – so often England’s nemesis at previous World Cups and European tournaments – could become a factor.
Asked if the squad had a plan of who would take penalties in a shoot-out, Lingard said: “Not at this current moment.
“Of course we are practising them at training and what not. There is not really a set five (takers) yet, but everyone is confident enough to go over and take one.”
Victory over Colombia would leave England facing a quarter-final against Sweden or Switzerland.