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England thrive in World Cup �bubble� ahead of Croatia semis

By The Assam Tribune
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REPINO, July 10: As excitement builds in England in the run-up to the country�s first World Cup semifinal for 28 years, midfielder Dele Alli insists Gareth Southgate�s team are keeping a cool head in their tournament �bubble�.

England�s matches so far in Russia have attracted huge television audiences at home and wild celebrations, with affable coach Gareth Southgate and his vibrant young squad capturing the hearts of a nation.

In sharp contrast to the feverish atmosphere, Alli and his team-mates are in relaxed mood in the sleepy seaside resort of Repino, 45 kilometres (28 miles) northwest of Saint Petersburg.

�You are in your own little bubble when here � training camp, coming back, getting ready for the next game. It is not until you look at social media and the internet that you realise how big it is,� Alli said on Monday.

�Obviously we know we are playing in the World Cup, in the semifinal. We are so focused on the games that you forget what we have done so far.

�It is important that we stay like that, keep going and hopefully we achieve something to make it even more special to get to the final and win it.�

Alli scored his first World Cup goal as England cruised into the last four with a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday.

A much tougher test is expected in Moscow against a Croatia side that swept past Argentina in the group stages and boasts the midfield talents of Real Madrid�s Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona.

But while many pundits and even England fans are surprised by their progress, Alli says the squad always believed they could go far.

�We had to believe and we know how talented we are as a squad,� he added.

�We know we have some unbelievable players and a great manager and everyone is clear on what we want to do.

�When you have such a solid foundation, you have the basics and clear understanding of what we want to do and achieve, it�s not a surprise that it�s going well for us.�

The calmness in England�s camp on and off the field is in stark contrast to Croatia�s experience.

In the latest in a series of controversies, former international Ognjen Vukojevic was kicked out of their delegation on Monday and fined by FIFA for posting a pro-Ukraine video clip following their penalty shootout victory over Russia on Saturday.

Defender Domagoj Vida, who scored against Russia, escaped with just a warning from FIFA, which bans political statements, for also appearing in the video and shouting �Glory to Ukraine!�

Earlier in the tournament, AC Milan striker Nikola Kalinic was sent home, reportedly over a disagreement with coach Zlatko Dalic about his fitness.

Croatia�s build-up to the tournament was overshadowed by the graft trial of former Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic and charges against captain Modric for alleged false testimony in that case.

Despite that, Modric�s three man-of-the-match performances and two winning penalties from Rakitic in shootout wins over Denmark and Russia have seen them match Croatia�s best-ever World Cup performance 20 years ago in France. � AFP

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England thrive in World Cup �bubble� ahead of Croatia semis

REPINO, July 10: As excitement builds in England in the run-up to the country�s first World Cup semifinal for 28 years, midfielder Dele Alli insists Gareth Southgate�s team are keeping a cool head in their tournament �bubble�.

England�s matches so far in Russia have attracted huge television audiences at home and wild celebrations, with affable coach Gareth Southgate and his vibrant young squad capturing the hearts of a nation.

In sharp contrast to the feverish atmosphere, Alli and his team-mates are in relaxed mood in the sleepy seaside resort of Repino, 45 kilometres (28 miles) northwest of Saint Petersburg.

�You are in your own little bubble when here � training camp, coming back, getting ready for the next game. It is not until you look at social media and the internet that you realise how big it is,� Alli said on Monday.

�Obviously we know we are playing in the World Cup, in the semifinal. We are so focused on the games that you forget what we have done so far.

�It is important that we stay like that, keep going and hopefully we achieve something to make it even more special to get to the final and win it.�

Alli scored his first World Cup goal as England cruised into the last four with a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday.

A much tougher test is expected in Moscow against a Croatia side that swept past Argentina in the group stages and boasts the midfield talents of Real Madrid�s Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona.

But while many pundits and even England fans are surprised by their progress, Alli says the squad always believed they could go far.

�We had to believe and we know how talented we are as a squad,� he added.

�We know we have some unbelievable players and a great manager and everyone is clear on what we want to do.

�When you have such a solid foundation, you have the basics and clear understanding of what we want to do and achieve, it�s not a surprise that it�s going well for us.�

The calmness in England�s camp on and off the field is in stark contrast to Croatia�s experience.

In the latest in a series of controversies, former international Ognjen Vukojevic was kicked out of their delegation on Monday and fined by FIFA for posting a pro-Ukraine video clip following their penalty shootout victory over Russia on Saturday.

Defender Domagoj Vida, who scored against Russia, escaped with just a warning from FIFA, which bans political statements, for also appearing in the video and shouting �Glory to Ukraine!�

Earlier in the tournament, AC Milan striker Nikola Kalinic was sent home, reportedly over a disagreement with coach Zlatko Dalic about his fitness.

Croatia�s build-up to the tournament was overshadowed by the graft trial of former Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic and charges against captain Modric for alleged false testimony in that case.

Despite that, Modric�s three man-of-the-match performances and two winning penalties from Rakitic in shootout wins over Denmark and Russia have seen them match Croatia�s best-ever World Cup performance 20 years ago in France. � AFP