Nigel Clough is convinced England can reach the later stages of the World Cup despite the lack of tournament experience in Roy Hodgson’s squad, writes James Shield.
But the Sheffield United manager, capped 14 times by his country, warned psychology rather than physicality will make or break their chances during tonight’s Group D fixture against Italy in Manaus.
“I actually think we are going to cause a few surprises over there,” Clough, who guided the League One club into last season’s FA Cup semi-finals, told The Star. “In my opinion, we’re capable of going a lot further than many people probably expect.
“The reason I say that is because we can play with no fear. Because nothing is really expected of us in terms of winning the competition, the lads can just go out there and give it a really good go.
“Approaching matches with that mindset can actually be a pretty powerful thing. Look at what we did in the cup. Nobody expected us to go as far as we did but we just entered the games determined to give it our best shot and knowing that, in many of them, if it didn’t come off then folk expected us to go out anyway.”
Former United defender Phil Jagielka is expected to partner Gary Cahill, who enjoyed a spell on loan at Bramall Lane seven years ago, when England face Cesare Prandelli’s side in the Amazonas capital where relative humidity levels could be an energy sapping 87 per cent.
Having made his international debut against Chile in 1989, Clough provided a fascinating insight into the challenges they, together with the likes of Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana, face as they prepare for their debuts on football’s greatest stage.
“When you are called up to play international football, you really do feel a huge responsibility,” Clough said. “You are acutely aware that the country want you to do well and that everything you do is going to be scrutinised to the n’th degree.
“That’s the key to making the transition. Being able to cope and handle it because it’s very different to club football in that regard and although some players make it look easy, it’s not.”
“It’s going to be so humid over there so I can’t see any of the European teams being able to play their usual styles,” Clough added. “That’s why I say that the character you show, how you approach your football and the attention to detail you demonstrate, is going to be so important.
“People might have to be a little bit patient and, when they’re in possession, the players are going to have to be patient too but that’s fine. There seems to be a good atmosphere about the place.”