Gareth Southgate believes his England side have learned a lot since the World Cup as they prepare to face semi-final opponents Croatia in Sunday’s crunch Nations League clash.
The Three Lions will meet Zlatko Dalic’s side at Wembley just over four months on from their extra-time defeat in Russia, in a winner-takes-all match which will settle relegation from Group A4 as well as the winner.
England have won three of their five games since the World Cup, including a 3-2 victory over Spain in their last Nations League outing, and Southgate thinks England have shown improvement.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, he said: “I think we’ve learned with every experience that we’ve had.
“We’ve added more depth to the squad in terms of some more young players emerging, more competition for places.
“We’ve had a slight change of system which has also added something different, so we’ve got some flexibility in how we can play.
“So we’re always improving and I think in those five matches that you’ve seen since the summer what we haven’t done is sat on our laurels and said ‘OK, we’re happy with what we did at the World Cup – that’s it for the year, we’ll look forward to the European Championship’.
“We’ve wanted to keep improving and I think the players have shown that mentality as well.”
Southgate says England know what to expect from Sunday’s opponents, having faced them in the Nations League last month as well as July’s semi-final clash.
“We’ve obviously played them twice in the last few months,” he added.
“We know their style of play, we know their preferences, the areas that they build up, we know areas that we think we can try to exploit.
“It’s two really evenly-matched teams. Both games after 90 minutes have been draws.
“I think there have been periods in both of those matches where each team has had the upper hand.
“So we’ve got to put all the things together tomorrow and make sure we back up our last few performances, which have been really healthy, and make sure we finish the calendar year – from an England perspective – on a real high.”
Southgate confirmed that all of his players trained on Saturday and he expects to have a full squad to pick from.
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