Hastings United Football Club manager Chris Agutter has described England’s achievements at the 2018 FIFA World Cup so far as ‘brilliant’.
England reached the quarter-finals of the global competition for the first time since 2006 after their penalty shoot-out victory over Colombia last night (Tuesday) - and Agutter is hopeful they can go even further.
Agutter said: “I think it’s brilliant. We moved training from Tuesday to Monday to make sure the players had an opportunity to watch the game.
“The decent England sides I remember were in ‘98 and ‘96. It doesn’t come along too often and some of them (the players) have never seen a decent England side - I think it’s important for the players they’re involved in it.”
England scraped past Colombia 4-3 on penalties after the scores were level at 1-1 at the end of normal and extra-time. Colombia equalised in added time at the end of normal time to force the additional half-hour.
“I don’t think you can under-estimate how beneficial it was to win the way England did last night,” Agutter continued. “If England had won 1-0 - as they deserved to really - everyone would’ve said that was a great result and a very disciplined performance.
“But there would still be question marks about do they have that resilience and bottle when it doesn’t necessarily go their way?
“It must’ve been absolutely galling to concede that goal when they did. But credit to the manager where he’s remained calm, reinforced the plan and got the players back on track.”
As a fellow manager, Agutter is impressed with how England boss Gareth Southgate has prepared and set up the team.
“It’s brilliant for Gareth Southgate that he’s done it his way,” he continued. “From the outside looking in, he’s been very disciplined in his beliefs and not compromised them.
“He’s got a way of playing, which might not be for everyone, but he’s got the players to buy into that. It seems a very united group from the outside looking in and from a coach’s perspective there’s no doubt England are very well organised.”
Although at very different levels, there are similarities in the way Hastings and England operate, such as playing out from the back when they have the ball and pressing the opposition when they don’t with mobile, athletic and hungry players.
“I think it’s the way the game’s going,” Agutter went on. “My beliefs are borne out of the fact that I’m a massive control freak.
“I believe the best way to control the game is by having the ball, and moving the ball down the pitch as a team and playing it over five or 10 yards rather than 80 yards. And when you lose the ball, getting it back as quickly as you can.
“England are trying to play in a certain style and the thing that’s impressed me most is when it’s really come down to it, they’ve had the faith and discipline to stick to it.
“Everyone talks about England starting fast and then losing their way. I think they like to shock and awe teams early doors, but after 20 minutes they say ‘let’s be a bit cute and drop in’. England teams have traditionally run themselves ragged all over the pitch and conceded late goals.”
England will face Sweden in Samara on Saturday, kick-off 3pm, for the right to meet Croatia or Russia in the semi-finals.
“I think it will be a tougher game than people think,” Agutter added. “I think they will pose a different type of problem.
“I think it will be a similar sort of game to Tunisia (who England beat 2-1 in their opening group match) where Tunisia dropped deep and killed the space in behind for the runners from deep to run into.
“The space in behind will be limited so do England need a different type of player to unlock the door?
“I’m really hopeful. It’s nice to see young England players going out there and embracing the occasion rather than wilting under it like in the past.”
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