Gareth Southgate’s team play Sweden in quarter-finals on Saturday
By Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 04/07/18 10:25pm
Ryan Mason says England’s players have to believe they can win the World Cup as they have been handed the “opportunity of a lifetime” to go all the way to the final.
England play Sweden in the quarter-finals on Saturday after they won their first knockout match at a major tournament for 12 years when they beat Colombia on penalties on Monday.
England beat Colombia on penalties
Should they beat Sweden, a semi-final against Russia or Croatia is all that would stand in England’s way of reaching only their second major tournament final.
Former England international Mason has encouraged Gareth Southgate’s side to believe they can achieve that feat, saying: “Pre-tournament, we had to manage expectations. I don’t think anyone expected England to go that far in the competition. We had to be realistic.
“But after four games everything has changed. We have to believe we are good enough. The way the draw has worked out, that squad of players has to believe there’s a massive opportunity to potentially win it.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and hopefully they can win it.”
Neville: Playing Sweden is not pretty
Despite the euphoria after England won their first penalty shootout at a World Cup, questions have still been asked about the role of certain players in the side.
One of those players is Raheem Sterling, who has only scored twice in 41 games for his country – the last of which was nearly three years ago.
However, Mason says the criticism of Sterling is misplaced, explaining: “I know Raheem’s come under a lot of criticism for his lack of goals for England, but for me his performances have been really encouraging. He’s been really positive.
“A lot of his work goes unnoticed. He’s been taking up some really intelligent positions, which allow Dele (Alli) and Jesse Lingard to run in behind. I think he’s brought Harry (Kane) into the game as well.
Redknapp: Don’t start Dier if Alli out
“I think when Raheem came off yesterday [against Sweden] we could clearly see that connection from midfield to the forward players wasn’t there as much.
“Don’t underestimate the job Raheem has been doing, because he’s been doing very well.”
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