In the latest England news, Gareth Southgate has played down criticism of Dele Alli and insists he is happy with the midfielder’s performances at World Cup.
The Tottenham man started England’s opening Group G clash with Tunisia but sustained a thigh injury and was forced out of the games with Panama and Belgium.
He returned to the starting XI for the last-16 tie with Colombia but some felt he struggled to impose himself on the game as England went on to claim their first ever World Cup victory via a penalty shoot-out.
Alli’s starting berth now appears to be in doubt for Saturday’s quarter-final meeting with Sweden and it’s understood that Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who deputised when Alli was injured, could be drafted back in.
However, Southgate insists he is happy with the 22-year-old’s performances so far and wants the former MK Dons midfielder to act on his attacking instincts against the Swedes.
Southgate said: “In terms of Dele, I thought his performance against Tunisia was as good as he’s had since I’ve been England manager.
“He is at his best when he’s making those forward runs and really threatening opponents with those forward runs from midfield. The other night, the game was a little bit different but he did a really diligent job without the ball for us.
“I think maybe we need to encourage him a little bit more to get into those areas where I think his strengths lie. Where he can have the biggest impact on the game. That is something I need to think about tactically but, like I say, he did a fantastic job for the team.”
England, who are 7/2 to win the World Cup with Coral, will take on hosts Russia or Croatia in the last four if they can find a way past Janne Andersson’s Sweden.