The spiritual figurehead of the team in many ways has been Southgate, a former England player whose self-effacing enthusiasm has become central to the group’s appeal. With a subtle knack for storytelling, he has done as much as any columnist to build a narrative about his players as lovable underdogs.
About their ambition to reach the final, rather than to play a third-place match after losing in the semifinals, Southgate said: “We spoke to the players today that none of us fancied going home. We’ve got to be here for another week, so it’s up to us the games we play in.”
And asked about uniting their country during a period of political division, he said: “All these players come from different parts of the country, and there will be youngsters watching at home from the areas that they come from who they’ll be inspiring at this moment, and that is of course even more powerful than what we’re doing with our results.”
The road to the final has looked surprisingly open for England for a while now, thanks at first to an easy group stage and now because of a series of fortuitous results in other games. England, with a different series of outcomes, could have faced Brazil or Germany in the quarterfinals and Spain in the next round.
England, young and until now unproven, is headed to its first World Cup semifinal since 1990. https://t.co/paOMc5QbTx
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) July 8, 2018