Dele Alli has been 'fantastic' for England, says Gareth Southgate
By Rory O'Callaghan
Last Updated: 07/07/18 3:52pm
Gareth Southgate insists Dele Alli is doing a "fantastic job" for England ahead of their World Cup quarter-final against Sweden.
Alli started the opening match against Tunisia but was forced to miss the remaining group games against Panama and Belgium with a thigh problem.
The Tottenham midfielder returned to the starting line-up against Colombia on Tuesday night but struggled to make an impact on the game and appeared hampered by his injury at times during the match.
However, Southgate insists he is happy with Alli's performances so far in Russia and has urged the 22-year-old to embrace his attacking instincts against Sweden on Saturday.
"In terms of Dele, I thought his performance against Tunisia was as good as he's had since I've been England manager," said Southgate.
"He is at his best when he's making those forward runs and really threatening opponents with those forward runs from midfield.
"The other night, the game was a little bit different but he did a really diligent job without the ball for us.
"I think maybe we need to encourage him a little bit more to get into those areas where I think his strengths lie. Where he can have the biggest impact on the game.
"That is something I need to think about tactically but like I say, he did a fantastic job for the team."
Southgate says he will wait to check on the fitness of Jamie Vardy before deciding if the Leicester striker can feature in Samara.
Vardy suffered a groin injury against Colombia and trained separately from his team-mates in Repino on Friday.
"We need to check Vardy again in the morning," said Southgate. "He completed what we hoped he would today but slightly separate to the team.
"We will just check whether there is any reaction to that. Everybody else trained."
England are yet to keep a clean sheet in the tournament and Southgate admits his side still has room for improvement, both offensively and defensively.
"We have made progress and the style of our play has improved enormously over the last 12 months," he said.
"We feel that we're controlling games with the ball but we can create more chances and we can defend better, but we have to continually look to improve.
"Tomorrow is another great test for us on a fantastic stage and we have to focus on those things.
"We are disappointed not have kept clean sheets and the value of those in the tournament is clear, especially when you get to the latter stages."