England manager Gareth Southgate believes winning the 2018 World Cup would be bigger than 1966 due to the advancement in technology, worldwide connectivity and the global explosion of football.
On Wednesday, his England players will face Croatia in Moscow for a place in the nation’s first World Cup final since Sir Bobby Moore led the side to become world champions for the only time in their history. Southgate referenced the 1966 World Cup when he first started working with his England players to explain to them what it would mean to lift the trophy.
“We’ve talked, touched briefly, certainly, on the team which won,” Southgate said after England comfortably beat Sweden 2-0 in the quarter-finals to reach the last four for the first time since Italia 90. “How they’re still held and revered. [We did it] at the beginning of working together with the lads and trying to sell them the vision of what’s possible, what we’re looking to achieve in the long-term.
“We also feel we’ve had events on when we’ve been in camp when some of those guys have been in, when the road was named at St George’s after Sir Alf [Ramsey]. I’ve met quite a few of those players and we know exactly how they’re held and perhaps in the modern era that would be even crazier, social media and everything else, the global thing is so much bigger.”
A key feature of this tournament has been the video clips of huge crowds of England supporters back home hurling pints everywhere each time England score and viral social media memes and posts have entertained the nation almost as much as the football.
But Southgate admits part of his job was to convince England’s young players how big playing for their country can be. After decades of disappointment and the emergence of the Premier League and Champions League as such dominating forces in English football, Southgate used the standing of England’s ’66 stars to convince them that the World Cup remained the pinnacle and winning it would etch their names in history for eternity.
“At the beginning of this we talked to them about how big it would be if England did well,” Southgate said. “Sometimes club football dominates so much. I sometimes think they think they don’t know if that’s the case but now they get a feel of the impact of what they’re doing.”