Eric Dier believes England can still reach new heights in Russia after securing their first World Cup semi-final in a generation.
Saturday’s 2-0 win over Sweden in Samara took Gareth Southgate’s side into the last four, and a Moscow date with Croatia next week, with goals from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli settling the issue.
Victory was just reward for England’s tenacity and togetherness, not to mention Jordan Pickford’s excellence in goal, but sober reflection might uncover areas for improvement.
The darting runs expected of Alli and Jesse Lingard did not arrive with the frequency or potency Southgate desires, while Raheem Sterling’s dynamic running badly needs a goal to settle his nerves.
England, though, are not kidding themselves that they have peaked and will return to their Repino base focused on fine tuning their game.
“I think we’ve developed very well here, we’ve showed a good level and had the right attitude, commitment and fight from the beginning,” said Dier, a late substitute against Sweden.
“But a team’s quality can always improve and we’ll try to keep getting better. We believe we can still improve a lot, so we will try to do that.
“But we have had the right attitude, mentality and willingness to fight.”
Dier may have been restricted to a handful of minutes off the bench in Samara but he has already left his mark on the tournament, slotting home the winning penalty against Colombia to end a 22-year shootout jinx.
Just as he had minimal time to reflect on his history-making contribution, so too do the rest of his team-mates as they ponder another impossibly high-stakes clash on Wednesday.
“I got over that (penalty) pretty quickly, just getting focused on the next game,” he said.
“We have no time really to dwell on the past. We’ve got to stay focused. We’ve done that up to now and I think we’ll continue to do that.”
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