Marcus Rashford pays heartfelt tribute to Gareth Southgate following World Cup exit

by Leo Nieboer

Marcus Rashford has lauded Gareth Southgate for bringing the “belief and love of football” back England supporters after reaching the semi-final of the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Playing a 3-5-2 formation and emphasising moving the ball quickly through the centre, England were a revelation at this World Cup, breaking their penalty curse against Colombia and strolling past Sweden to reach the last four.

And they were about 20 minutes away from the final, the game in their pocket, only for Ivan Perisic to equalise and turn the tide of momentum in Croatia’s favour, with Mario Mandzukic netting the winner in extra time.

Rashford, who came on soon after Croatia equalised, has paid tribute to Southgate for leading England on a World Cup campaign which made the country fall in love with its national team again.

Football didn’t come home but, in the end, that doesn’t matter. Southgate has irrevocably changed the shape and feel of the English game forever, and that is just as valuable as any trophy.

He has hauled English football into 2018. His success – along with that of managers like Zinedine Zidane, Luis Enrique, Julen Lopetegui, Roberto Martinez – signals an end to the era of doddering sixty-somethings who play four at the back and have been at the game for 30 years.

The modern game demands new ideas – managers whose attitude revolves around a detailed, interrogating study of the game as played today rather than the angry PE teacher approach. Players are different. The way to hurt teams has changed.

And Southgate – god bless him – has made this abundantly clear in a World Cup campaign which brought an entire nation together.

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