Southgate Charges England Players to Ignite Wembley Crowd 


Gareth Southgate is keen for his England players to excite the Wembley crowd during Tonight’s 2018 World Cup qualifier with Slovakia.

England were underwhelming in Malta on Friday when three late goals gave them a flattering 4-0 victory.

They lead Group F by two points and a win over second-placed Slovakia will leave them on the cusp of qualifying for next summer’s finals in Russia.

“We have some exciting players and we want to show that,” said Southgate.

“We have a responsibility to get the Wembley crowd on their feet but equally, everywhere we go in the world the home crowd give the team a lift. It will be great if we can get the level of support that stadium can bring.

“The whole country wants to be at the World Cup. It is a great opportunity for us.

“We are playing good opposition so we have to make sure we are tactically prepared, which we will be, but also have belief in the team we have got.”

Victory for England today will take them five points clear of their opponents with two games left to play.

Southgate felt his side put on a “professional” performance in the game against Malta, who put up a resilient display until they tired late on to allow England to exert their authority.

However, they were criticised for the display, with former national captain Terry Butcher suggesting that they lacked the kind of gifted individuals capable of unlocking the best defences.

Southgate expects a much sterner test on Monday, against a side who have won their last five World Cup qualifiers and have Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik and Dinamo Bucharest striker Adam Nemec.

In their opening game of the group, England required a 95th-minute Adam Lallana goal to beat the 10 men of Slovakia in Southgate’s predecessor, Sam Allardyce’s only game in charge.

“They are a good side with players we respect. The last couple of games we have played against them have been 0-0 and 0-1 in the last minute against 10 men,” Southgate told BBC Sport.

“We are all aware of the challenge they pose but we also feel they are a team we can beat.

“It is an opportunity. We have a home game to put us within touching distance of Russia, which is exciting. Qualifying groups come down to these type of games.”