‘Be who you are, and be proud of that’ – Klinsmann’s message to England
When I watch England at this World Cup I see a team that is very determined and plays in a straightforward style.
There is nothing complicated about the way you play. Some might say it is predictable, and it may not be the most beautiful approach sometimes – but there is nothing wrong with that as long as it is effective.
You don’t need to play like Brazil or other teams who have a different football heritage and approach to the game. Be who you are – and be proud of that.
When I took over as Germany boss in 2004, after we had failed at that summer’s European Championship, I began by trying to give our national team an identity, and a clear way of playing. That included our attitude as well.
Two years later, our young team had an amazing run to the semi-finals of the World Cup that captured the imagination of our people.
It was a beautiful moment because it seemed everyone suddenly saw themselves as part of our team. It was a kind of surge of identity and pride that was wonderful to watch.
I can definitely see similarities with this England team, and the connection they have made with your public, and not just because they are a similar age.
What will decide the semi-final? Energy and belief
I wanted England to be decisive and assertive in your quarter-final against Sweden, and the same goes against Croatia, although they are a very different team.
Gareth Southgate might tweak some things tactically, but I don’t think that will prove to be that important in deciding the outcome.
What will be important is the energy your players can bring, and their belief they can get to the final.
Mentally, I think you are ready, whatever happens. England have not gone behind in a game that matters in this tournament but, if it happens on Wednesday, you have the resilience to deal with it.
The England players will not panic, they have proved that. I want to see you go for it, and seize this opportunity.
If you do go on to win the tournament – and I hope you do – it would have an indescribable effect.
Winning a World Cup can almost reboot a whole nation. I am not talking politically, because you have a lot going on there at the moment, but it will definitely restore some pride.
It did exactly that for Germany in 2014, when the public saw themselves in the faces of all the players, and I would love to see the same thing happen for England too.
Southgate’s spirit has carried England game to game
First and foremost, it seems Gareth’s side are enjoying themselves in Russia, like my team did. He seems to have a group of players that take things very seriously, but with a light touch.
When you are in a tournament like the World Cup, then how you handle pressure is as important as how much ability you have got, and whatever situation England have been in, the weight on their shoulders seems to be just fine.
You also need the ability to take one step at a time, no matter how excited everyone else is getting.
Just like in England now, during the 2006 World Cup everyone began to feel something special was happening with the Germany team, but the difference was we were the hosts and we were right in the middle of it.
Finding the correct way to deal with that starts with the coach, and Gareth and his staff have done outstanding work with the way their players present themselves.
They are down to earth, approachable, focused and very open. He has created that team spirit and atmosphere around the squad, probably over the course of several weeks, and it has carried you from game to game.
It has been wonderful to watch from the outside, and I think every player in Gareth’s team right now is just thrilled to be a part of it, and it is clear every player also puts the team 100% first.
I just hope you keep that positivity and focus in Wednesday’s semi-final against Croatia, and beyond.
I want England to have that feeling of staying grounded – until you have hold of the trophy.
The future is bright, but the time is now
You need to have a special group to be able to create a successful side at this level, but the challenge will never stop for England, whether or not you do win this World Cup.
Things move on right away, which has maybe kind of haunted Germany since we became world champions in 2014. Maybe we thought they had everything under control but no, it is not that simple.
Every team’s circumstances can change very quickly. If we played this same tournament again in maybe two months, then you might have three or four different semi-finalists.
What I am trying to say is you have to capture the moment. You might not get the chance again.
Of course, this could just be the start for this England team, like 2006 was for Germany.
In the next eight years, we reached three more semi-finals at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 – and of course became world champions in 2014.
I know there is a wave of young English players coming through – the under-17s are European champions and the under-20s won their World Cup last year. I was there in South Korea to watch them because my son was playing for the United States.
So it looks like the system is in place to bring more and more players through the pipeline, that can continue this surge.
But at this moment you should not get ahead of yourself and think about what will happen in two or four years’ time, because you are in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
Right now it only matters what happens this week.
Jurgen Klinsmann was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan in Moscow.
|2018 Fifa World Cup semi-final: Croatia v England|
|Venue: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow Date: Wednesday 11 July, 19:00 BST|
|Coverage: Full radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and text commentary online and in BBC Sport app|
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July 10, 2018 at 02:00AM