Dele Alli is ready to strut his stuff against Colombia, with the fit-again midfielder adamant that England are “not scared of anyone” at this World Cup.
Qualification for the last 16 was sealed with a game to spare after the Three Lions followed up their last-gasp win against Tunisia with a ruthless display in the shellacking of Panama.
Manager Gareth Southgate’s second string lost to Belgium’s back-ups on Thursday, but confidence is still coursing through the squad ahead of tomorrow’s tough-looking clash against Colombia in Moscow.
“The World Cup is the highest level,” England attacking midfielder Alli said.
“The best teams around the world, the players playing against each other.
“As a team we’re not scared of anyone.
“Whatever team you put in front of us we’re not going to hide, we’ll go out there, be confident in ourselves, play the way we want to play and hopefully win the game.
“Of course, like I said before, we’ve come here with the mentality we want to win it and we’re going to win it.
“At the same time we can’t get carried away. We’ve been playing very well, there has been a lot of positives, but at the same time there are still things to work on and we know that as players.
“For us we have to focus on the next game, we can’t think about how well we’ve played in the last game or how good we are doing.
“We have to be positive, but we can’t get carried away and let our feet get off the floor.
“We have to perform well and we’re confident that we can beat anyone.”
While England’s players believe they can lift the trophy, there appears little chance of them looking too far ahead as their last taste of knockout football ended with a humiliating loss to Iceland.
Pressure got the better of them at Euro 2016, but Southgate has helped shape the mentality of a group facing what the manager calls England’s biggest match in a decade.
“Every player is different,” Alli said of coping with pressure. “Every player handles different situations in different ways.
“Personally, the only pressure is the pressure I put on myself. I want to go out there and do as well as I can if I’m selected. Be part of the starting 11 and help the team as much as a I can, play as well as I can.”
Alli worked himself into the team for England’s Group G opener against Tunisia only to pick up a thigh strain that kept him out of the final two matches.
The attacking midfielder played 80 minutes in Volgograd having looked set to come off in the first half, but he does not have any regrets about staying on.
“No, I’m glad he kept me on,” Alli said.
“I had a similar injury when we played Real Madrid and scored two, so if I had scored maybe people would think differently.
“I felt like I could run it off and I told the manager and the physios I was okay.”
Alli now feels fully fit ahead of facing Colombia, when he would have no problem taking a spot-kick if it goes all the way.
England have a dreadful penalty shootout record, but Southgate, who missed the key penalty in Euro 96, has helped change things.
“Every situation you have to control it, you have to own it,” Alli added. “I want to go help the team.
“I’m confident in myself and what’s meant to be will be.
“We’ve got to try to work hard on the penalties and we have been, we’re trying to own the situation, not let it own us. It’s changed the whole mindset for us.”
Alli’s club and international team-mate Harry Kane, the England captain, says England are facing their World Cup “moment of truth”.
Kane was one of eight players rested by Southgate for Thursday’s dead rubber against Belgium, despite sitting on five goals for the tournament already.
He will come back into the side for tomorrow’s second-round match with Colombia and it is hoped his goals can help England arrest their terrible record in knockout football.
“This is the moment of truth,” Kane said.
“Colombia are a tough team and have got some great players and we have to be ready for that.
“We have had a great start. This is the business end. It’s a totally new tournament now. You focus on finding a way to win.”
Southgate’s decision to rotate, with only group position at stake, led to criticism, especially as a similarly-weakened Belgium ran out 1-0 winners on Thursday.
The criticism was partly a consequence of increased optimism on the back of impressive wins over Tunisia and Panama.
Kane, though, says England need to remain calm.
“This is what you put all those hours in for,” he added.
“This is why you work technically and tactically, for big games like this.
“There’s going to be more pressure on us now, but I think it’s important for us to have that mentality just to be calm in these situations, enjoy it all.”