England ahead of Sweden Clash…

Faced with their biggest football match in decades, the serious task ahead was evident from the faces of the Three Lions, with little laughing or joking among the team-mates.

England players looked focused and determined as they went for a short walkabout ahead of their bid to secure the side’s first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.

The team, led by captain Harry Kane, left their hotel for a 15-minute stroll along the banks of the river Volga in the Russian city of Samara where they will go against Sweden.

Faced with their biggest football match in decades, the serious task ahead was evident from the faces of the Three Lions, with little laughing or joking among the team-mates.

The side will be looking to qualify for their first World Cup semi-final since Italia 90 when they lost on penalties to West Germany.

“The players went for a very brief walk around the hotel towards the River Volga, they were back within about 15 minutes.

“They’ll have lunch, finish their pre-match preps and head to the stadium about two hours before kick-off.”

“England training and media activities have been jovial for the last month with the ‘relaxed atmosphere’ line almost becoming a cliche.

“The players were largely silent when they left the hotel today, serious looks on their faces as they go through their pre-match routine.”

Supporters arriving in the Russian city of Samara for the game were confident of seeing Gareth Southgate’s team reach the last four.

“We’re having the best time here, money can’t buy an experience like this, all we need now is the win,” one fan from Lichfield, Staffordshire.

The number of England fans at the opening game against Tunisia was said to be the lowest at a World Cup for 30 years and they were vastly outnumbered by Colombia supporters in the round of 16.

Temperatures in both the UK and Russia are set to soar for the quarter-final, with the mercury potentially reaching 33C (91.4F) at home and peaking at 30C (86F) in Samara around kick-off time.

One player unlikely to feature in the game is striker Jamie Vardy, who picked up a groin injury in the dramatic win against Colombia.

He had been due to take the fifth penalty but his injury meant that Eric Dier had to step up.

Samara’s shiny new 45,000-seater stadium looks like a spaceship and its design is a nod to the city’s place as the heart of Russia’s aerospace industry.

If England can get past a well-drilled Sweden side here, things will really lift off for Southgate’s men.

Speaking ahead of the game, the England manager hit out at suggestions that his side was a “team of entitlement”.

Former Sweden midfielder Hakan Mild had claimed England do not have the determination required to triumph as they are “spoilt children who earn a lot of money”.

Southgate said: “We’re lads who have come from Barnsley and Leeds and Bolton and Blackburn.

“I always think Sweden like to point we’re paid this and that, and we’re the team of entitlement when I don’t think that is the case for this group.

“I was at (Crystal) Palace when they weren’t quite as good as they are now. We’ve scrapped and fought our way.”

The Swedes are an extremely disciplined side, each man knows precisely what is expected of him and in the post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic era of Swedish football, it’s all about the collective rather than the individual.

“The English have Harry Kane, and yes he’s a world-class player, but we have a fantastic team,” one of their fans told me at the city’s beautiful waterfront.

England’s quarter-final tie with Sweden kicks off at 3pm UK time, with the winners playing in a World Cup semi-final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.

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