England's Raheem Sterling provid.ity that makes Gareth Southgate's dynamic system tick

England players training in Russia

David Beckham defended Raheem Sterling after the Manchester City winger was criticised again on social media during England's 2-0 win over Sweden in the World Cup quarterfinals.

It seems likely Sterling will keep his place for England's first semi-final in 22 years - when Southgate himself missed a penalty in the Euro 96 shootout against Germany.

In his second season under Pep Guardiola, Sterling bagged a career-best 23 goals in 46 appearances as Manchester City stormed to the Premier League title.

Asked what it would mean to defeat England, Dalic said: "It's already a great achievement for us to be in the last four because some big teams are already swimming on their vacation - Argentina, Brazil, Germany and so on. Of course he hasn't scored the goals we would have liked to score but for myself and the players he has been a crucial part of the way we have been playing".

The 51-year-old coach, who has only been in charge of the national side since October, said: "I wouldn't say there are any glaring weaknesses - they are in the semi-finals, that says it all".

Barnes, who started his career at Watford before moving to Liverpool and also later had a spell with Newcastle, feels the current England players will leave Russian Federation better prepared for the challenges ahead. "I think he has been fantastic, his consistency has been incredible and I think he fully deserves it".

These are the semi-final matchups at the FIFA World Cup (SCHEDULE)
That evenness is why France is the team to beat in the mind of Jeffrey Marcus, publisher of the World Cup newsletter "The Banter". Tintin and Asterix have always been rivals in the world of the comic strips for both are popular for their entertainment and art.

Southgate has engendered a more open, relaxed environment at national team level, with the players carrying less emotional baggage and playing with more freedom.

Croatia's shoot-out victory over Russian Federation was their second straight win on penalties at the World Cup, having beaten Denmark in the same fashion in the last-16, and Dalic admitted that playing 120 minutes twice in the last six days was not ideal, particularly as some of his players are now carrying injuries.

"But we are looking forward to a different style of game against England because they like to play attacking football".

"The key is how you respond to failure and react to it".

"If we had England's money, who knows where we'd be in our country?"

"I suppose what has surprised me is I have enjoyed it more than I thought I might", he added.

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