Gareth Southgate told England’s young World Cup stars to grab their chance at glory after reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 1990.
England followed their gritty display against Colombia with a comfortable 2-0 quarter-final win over Sweden today. They will meet Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.
Headers from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli either side of half-time did the damage in Samara as England secured just their third ever World Cup semi-final.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be the England manager anyway,” the former defender said.
“To be able to take the team this far, knowing the people who have done it in the past – not just World Cups, with Terry (Venables) and Don (Howe) in the European Championship as well – who I have incredible respect for and hold in such high esteem, I feel privileged to be in this position.
“We spoke to the players today – none of us fancied going home.
“We have got to be here for another week (as there is the third-placed play-off) so it’s up to us now which games we play in.
“I’m so, so proud of what all of the players and all of the staff have done because we’ve got to this point because the collective has been so strong.
“We played an opponent today whose identity is clear and whose togetherness has at times been too much for us to handle over the years.
“To come on the back of a game where we had to go to the very depths emotionally and physically in midweek and be able to give what we gave today – control the game, but also withstand the physical test – was a real sign of resilience for a young team, who I think are really maturing in front of our eyes.”
Southgate feels privileged to “connect everyone through football” and hopes to keep the party going back home.
Humility, togetherness and no little skill have inspired England to this point, with the manager thanking the families of this group, his staff as well as the players to miss out on the squad.
Former Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson was also praised for being “brave enough” to put young players in at Euro 2016 and help the country kick on to reach the World Cup semi-finals.
“It would fairly easily be the best day of my coaching (career),” said Southgate, who would like to celebrate with a pint of bitter if he can find one.