DOHA, Qatar (AP) — England coach Gareth Southgate has nothing to tell his players just before they leave the locker room to play defending champion France in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.
That is his choice, preferring players to take control and citing his own playing experience of managers who could “mess it up” by talking too much before kickoff.
Southgate was asked Friday what he would say in a final pep talk to the team before the match.
“Nothing at all,” Southgate said as he turned to England captain Harry Kane, who was sitting beside him at the prematch news conference on Friday. “Harry does it.”
“I don’t speak to them in that way immediately before the game. By that point the work is done. I leave it to the players,” said the coach, who is aiming to guide England to a second straight World Cup semifinal.
Southgate’s strategy was forged in a long playing career that included 57 games for England, with two of them at the 1998 World Cup.
“Frankly, there are lots of times when I played when the managers spoke at that point and I thought, ‘I’m ready, all you can do is mess it up for me now,'” he said.
Kane has led by example at this World Cup, helping teammates with a tournament joint-best three assists and also scoring one goal.
He was then pressed to share insight into what he would say.
“I don’t want to tell my secrets,” the England forward said, smiling at his coach for having put him on the spot. “It will just be a small briefing in the huddle.”
“I’m not completely sure what I’ll say. I’ll think about it in the 24 hours before,” said the Tottenham forward, who is vice captain at his club.
The London team’s captain is goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who will also skipper the France team in Saturday’s quarterfinal match at Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar.