Southgate expects youthful England to cope with Croatia's empty stadium

Aubrey Yates
October 12, 2018

Modric had earlier said that the perceived disrespect the Croatia players felt was an additional incentive to succeed in the semi-final.

"I am sure Croatia feel the same".

Three months after facing one another in the World Cup semi-finals, the Three Lions travel to Rijeka before heading onto an arguably even tougher assignment against Spain. "They'd like to have the encouragement of an incredibly passionate support".

Mario Mandzukic, who beat Stones to the ball to score the extra-time semi-final goal to break English hearts, will not be in the Croatia team, having retired from worldwide football, but there will be plenty of familiar faces: from Dejan Lovren to Luka Modric.

"It's going to be tough non-football environment for both teams, it's hard to play in an empty stadium".

Southgate will be without Tottenham left-back Rose and Southampton goalkeeper McCarthy for those games after withdrawing from the squad on Thursday due to the "minor injuries" they arrived with.

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Southgate said: "It means Croatia don't get the energy the home support can give you in those moments when you're under pressure". Should Southgate play players like Sancho, Maddison and Mount to test the youth, or should England go full strength with Kane, Sterling and Henderson?

But he insists this is a squad picked to win this game, and the other Uefa Nations League match in this double-header - against Spain in Seville on Monday. It is not experimentation.

'Obviously it will be a different environment for me personally and a lot of the lads without having any fans here, but that's something that we can't control and it's down to what happened here in the past. The team who play will be the team we believe in.

"There's nobody in the squad that's here that we we're not thinking of putting into the team".

"Some are relatively inexperienced at the highest level but they're people we've enjoyed working with and have shown they can handle themselves at this level in training this week".

"I am looking at their midfield - Modric, Rakitic, Kovacic, with Rebic and Perisic".

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