Gareth Southgate has ‘racehorse trainer’s eye’ for England injuries

David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2013

I thought we would but we never have.

The days of surly players reluctantly speaking to the media seem as far away as those when cliques formed around club sides and players seemed to view England duty as something to be endured.

Yet while it was complete focus on the job in hand as the players prepared for what is the most high-pressure game of their global careers, the relaxed vibe surrounding the England base camp in Repino remained.

Gareth Southgate reminds Sir Geoff Hurst of Sir Alf Ramsey and the World Cup-winning striker feels England's current team can now emulate the 1966 side by lifting the trophy.

"The only time we went out was after the first game against Uruguay when we drew 0-0, which wasn't a good start. We should continue to show that belief against Croatia - we've got a real chance".

In 1998, Croatia, which had emerged from a bitter independence war only three years earlier, made its debut at a World Cup finals.

"They were sending them to their mums, dads and grandparents who wouldn't believe them when they said how similar I looked!"

"(We hoped we would have) a long month together, which we have done.

That fervour has taken captain Harry Kane's popularity up a notch, with England's Golden Boot leader now tantalisingly close to lifting the World Cup.

"I don't know what you're saying in the dressing room to the players, but whatever you're saying, it's working". "We are just trying to be in the best possible place on Wednesday".

Walker is also confident that Raheem Sterling will also see his hard work rewarded.

Raheem Sterling shrugged off the latest criticism aimed at the Manchester City forward to capture the feeling in the England camp and back home.

"Raz, he's a nightmare for us defenders", Walker added.

"He's quick, he's dynamic and hopefully the goals are going to come now in these two last important games".

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