Gareth Southgate says England are “mentally and physically ready” to take penalties when they face Senegal in the World Cup last 16 on Sunday.
England have been involved in three shootouts since Southgate took over in 2016. They defeated Colombia at the 2018 World Cup in Russia before defeating Switzerland in the Nations League the following year.
Although their most recent shootout ended in defeat against Italy in last summer’s Euro 2020 final, England boss Southgate believes his players are ready to go the distance against the African giants as they bid for a place in the finals in Qatar this weekend.
“We’re ready. We’ve got a plan we’ve followed,” Southgate said in his pre-kick-off press conference.
“We have won two out of three matches and we are looking at how we can improve. But of course, there are many other areas that we need to improve.
“We want to win the game in 90 minutes and avoid extra time and penalties. But if we have to go beyond that we have to be mentally and physically ready. I believe we are.”
Southgate: We have to change from set pieces
As England head into the knockout stages, Southgate also admitted his side need to improve in the regular stages.
He scored six goals in seven games four years ago in Russia, two of which led them to the quarter-finals and semi-finals. England, who have scored nine goals so far in Qatar, have managed just two from the group stages.
Asked if he was thinking about them ahead of Sunday’s game, Southgate replied: “More than we do.
“We haven’t been as good at the pieces that we would have liked to have, so there are some changes that are needed from us.
“The pieces and the shots, these little things, every team in the world is trying to get better all the time.”
Kane: My foot is getting better every day
Speaking to Southgate was England captain Harry Kane, who revealed his foot “feels good” after knocking off in the second half of England’s Group B opener against Iran.
The 29-year-old was substituted shortly after the 6-2 win but quickly recovered to start against the USA and Wales as England finished top of their group.
Kane, who is yet to score in Qatar, admits he is fit and sharp and will be hoping to break the duck against Senegal at the Al Bayt Stadium.
“My foot feels fine. There is no problem at all and it has been improving day by day,” he said.
“I would have liked to be here with two or three goals but the teams have gone well. The few minutes were not too difficult.
“If you look at the numbers the game has not been very physical. I feel good, fit and sharp from the back of the Premier League schedule.
“I feel as good as I know, and I think I’ve been playing well.
“Goals are what should be considered the most, but I’m a calm person and I’m always willing to do my best for the team. I hope I can leave tomorrow.”
Dier: The win over Colombia broke the psychological barriers
Eric Dier insists England are ready to shoot for the World Cup in Qatar after breaking “mental barriers” by beating Colombia on penalties four years ago.
Victory in the last 16 in Russia was England’s first World Cup in their fourth attempt.
Colombia’s win, in which Dier made an effort after goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made a great save from Carlos Bacca, was hailed as a watershed moment by the Tottenham defender.
“There are ifs, buts and maybes,” he said.
“I feel like that World Cup, it’s hard for me to say because I was involved, but I felt that in that game we broke down a lot of the mental barriers and ideas that exist in English football around things like knock-on games and penalty shots and playing against that kind of opposition.
“I think the game I remember at the time felt like a weight on our shoulders and I think you saw that in the next game against Sweden (in the quarterfinal).
“Nobody is talking about winning and this game was a moment where we all felt like we had overcome a few obstacles and now we were free to play and some of the burden of history was lifted from our backs.”
Maguire: The fans have been great, I’m in a good moment
Harry Maguire says he is coming into the Senegal game at a “good time” – having re-established his place as one of England’s most important players after three good seasons.
Despite not featuring for Manchester United since the start of the home season, Maguire has helped England keep consecutive clean sheets against the United States and Wales in this World Cup.
Although he has also received rave reviews for his pre-tournament performances for club and country, Maguire – who played for England as a match referee most recently at Euro 2016 – is said to have been supported by England players.
“I’m in a good moment, three good games as a team and as an individual,” Maguire said Sky Sports news the evening of the Senegal match.
“The fans have been cheering me on since I made it 51 games later and they’re still chanting my name. I know the fans in England, I’ve been following the team all my life and being with them, signing and singing.
“I know how passionate they are and they have been amazing with me since I started. They give me a lot of faith, confidence and motivation to make sure I win my country.”
Maguire says he and his England team-mates will not take Senegal lightly on Sunday evening, with the defender insisting the African Cup of Nations hosts have “dangerous players”.
“It’s a good team – the opposition,” said the defender. “He’s used to winning, especially in recent years.
“The mentality they have – you saw how they worked against Ecuador. They were good with the ball and they have good and dangerous players.
“I don’t know what [England] fans say or think but the truth is, we can’t underestimate them. We know how difficult it is. “
Regarding England’s World Cup chances, Maguire added: “Expectations are high, of course. Going into the 2018 World Cup, we wanted to do well and we had good faith in ourselves as a team but we didn’t expect to win the tournament. .
“This World Cup is very difficult and has big teams. But we feel like we are one of them and we have a chance to make history.
“We know it’s going to be difficult and you need big moments and big goals in the game, especially in the curve ball. But we have players who can provide those moments.”
England’s path to the World Cup final
Round 16 – Sunday December 4th
England vs Senegal – Start at 7pm
Quarter-finals – Saturday December 10
England vs France or Poland – Start at 7pm
Semi-finals – Wednesday December 14
England vs Morocco/Spain/Portugal/Switzerland – Start at 7pm
Last 16 games
Saturday December 3rd
Netherlands 3-1 USA
Argentina 2-1 Australia
Sunday December 4th
France (Group D Winners) vs Poland (Finalists in Group C) – Kick-off 3pm
England (Group B winners) vs Senegal (Finals in Group A) – Starts at 7pm
Monday December 5
Japan (Cinners of Group E) vs Croatia (Finalists in Group F) – Kick-off 3pm
Brazil (Group G winners) vs South Korea (Finalists in Group H) – Kick-off 7pm
Tuesday December 6th
Morocco (Group F winners) vs Spain (Finalists in Group E) – Kick-off 3pm
Portugal (Group H Winners) vs Switzerland (Finalists in Group G) – Kick-off 7pm