July 10, 2018 / 4:31 PM / 10 days ago

England have potential for much more, says Southgate

MOSCOW (Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate believes his team are “nowhere near” the level they will be capable of reaching in the future, he said on Tuesday ahead of the World Cup semi-final against Croatia.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - England Training - England Training Camp, Saint Petersburg, Russia - July 10, 2018 England's Harry Kane and team mates during training REUTERS/Lee Smith

Southgate said that although England had made history in the manner in which they had progressed to the last four, there was the potential for much more.

“We have to keep improving as a team, this team is nowhere near the level they are going to be capable of, partly because of their age and partly because over the next few years with us and with their clubs, they are going to have more and more big match experience,” he said

“We are excited about the future but also we want to make the most of the opportunity we have tomorrow as well.”

Southgate said England’s dramatic improvement since Euro 2016, which ended with a humiliating defeat by Iceland in the last 16, was down to the FA’s backing.

“We’ve got good support for the players and we’ve planned really well, watching hundreds of matches and learning as much as we possibly can and we are starting to see through the age groups some success because of that,” he said,

England have reached the semi-finals for the first time since 1990.

“We ere enjoying the journey, we came here to enjoy our football,” Southgate said.

“We have been one of the youngest teams in the tournament and least experienced in the tournament and we were never quite sure how far this team go. The hunger of players has been there for everyone to see, we are proud of the style they have played.

“We have won a game in stoppage-time, we have had to recover from conceding in the last minute, we have been through extra time, we have won on penalties, we have made several pieces of history — the biggest win, the first knockout win for 10 years, the first quarter-final win for longer.....We are looking to keep breaking those barriers down.”

Southgate acknowledged that the team may have helped bring the country together in a time of political crisis.

“Our country has been though some difficult moments in terms of unity and sport has the power to do that, and football in particular,” he said.

“We can feel the energy form home and that is a privilege for us.”

Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond

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