‘I can see us getting to the semi-finals’ – Osman backs Three Lions to shine in Russia

England striker Harry Kane (left) with manager Gareth Southgate during a training session in Russia

England striker Harry Kane (left) with manager Gareth Southgate during a training session in Russia yesterday. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

Ipswich Town legend and former England international Russell Osman has backed the Three Lions to make the semi-finals of the World Cup.

The tournament kicks off this afternoon when hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia in Moscow (4pm).

England’s opener is against Tunisia on Monday (7pm) with games to follow against Panama (Sunday, June 24, 1pm) and Belgium (Thursday, June 29, 7pm).

Progress from Group G would see Gareth Southgate’s men face someone from Group H in the first knockout round – either Poland, Colombia, Senegal or Japan.

“Getting out of the group shouldn’t be a problem,” said Osman, who was capped 11 times by his country. “And if they can finish top – which will be tough with Belgium being in there – that will make life a little bit easier.

“From there it is a case of taking one game at a time. You need discipline and no key injuries, because it’s vital to have your best players on the pitch.

“For me, once the action gets under way, it’s not so much about the manager and the side he picks and the formation. It’s more about the players and who turns up on any given day. Some will play to their full potential, some won’t. We’ve just got to hope more do than don’t because in the past that’s obviously not happened in tournaments.

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“This time it could be different because you sense there isn’t the same weight of expectation on them.

“I think Gareth Southgate has done a great job. Roy Hodgson was a bit dour and the football the team played was a bit dour too. Gareth has got that little bit more about him. He seems to have taken the fear factor out of the air and got the players expressing themselves and their own personalities.

“Have we got enough world class players? That’s debatable. Harry Kane certainly needs to be firing.

“I think we’ll get to the quarter-finals at least and I can actually see us getting to the semi-finals. Building momentum and confidence is vital and I think starting with games against Tunisia and Panama could enable that.”

Osman, who played 70 games for club and country the season Town’s won the UEFA Cup (1980/81), will be alongside another former Blues favourite, Simon Milton, to provide live punditry for all of England’s group games at Gresham Sports and Social Club on Tuddenham Road. Tickets to watch the games there on a giant screen are available for £10 and include a pint and burger/hot dog.

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