If England are feeling a bit off the grid in the tiny Gulf State of Qatar, that may be the best news for avoiding the noise back home.
With a lack of fans travelling to Doha for the World Cup and a sense of isolation being in the Middle East for the first time, Gareth Southgate may well be advising his England players not to check their phones.
A 0-0 draw against the USA off the back of a thrilling 6-2 win over Iran has sent alarm bells ringing once again in England, despite the side just needing to avoid a four-goal loss against Wales to reach the last 16.
That was rarely mentioned, though, in the aftermath of a drab bore-draw, where inquests were already beginning despite the Three Lions being on the verge of the next stage.
talkSPORT’s Adrian Durham perhaps summed up the mood of much of the nation at full time, saying: “That smacks of not being able to win the World Cup… it reeked of Nations League.”
But in the Al Bayt Stadium, all was well, even with the sound of boos at full time.
“I didn’t sense that they were at us,” Southgate told talkSPORT, suggesting the many neutrals were unhappy with a boring spectacle.
“Our first objective is to qualify from the group, we’ve still got a little bit to do in terms of doing that, but we’re also still in pole position to win the group if we can win the game next week.
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“That’s got to be our aim, so that’s of course going to be a very, very tough game again. Wales are going to be hurt by what’s happened today, and we’re going to have to be at our very best.
“But there are very few teams I’ve known over the years that get nine points in their group.
“There are different types of challenges that you’ve got to dig in and different sides of your character that you’ve got to show and we had to show a different side tonight.
“When you’re at a World Cup, there are different challenges, different types of opposition, you’re never going to cruise through games like we did the other day.
“And I knew on the back of that type of performance the other day, it’s very hard to hit that height, so today was a game that I’m actually really pleased with how we’ve done, I think the mentality was good.”
Had this been last summer, when Southgate took England to their first major final since 1966 at Wembley, his positivity in the dressing room might have been drowned out by the morning papers.
But instead, he’s not the only one with sights on beating Wales, and making another run at the big time.
Harry Maguire added: “We stay in control of the group, we drew 0-0 but this is the World Cup, we’re playing against the best teams in the world.
“We knew the USA were tough opposition, we’ve watched a lot of their recent games and the improvement they’ve shown over the years is really high so we knew it would be a tough game.
“Obviously we can play better, we know that. Our play in the final third, our execution wasn’t like it was against Iran, but we got into some good positions but the final ball wasn’t good enough and we weren’t clinical with our finishing.
“But in the end when you can’t win a football match you make sure you don’t lose and don’t concede and we did that.
“We want to win games, we want to excite our fans, we won 6-2 and everyone spoke about how bad Iran were so this is England.
“I’m sure the boos weren’t from the proper fans, I’m sure there were a lot of neutrals as well and it’s a game they wouldn’t have enjoyed, and that’s what we want to do, we’ve proved over the years we want to entertain and score goals but tonight that wasn’t to be.
“When you’re not on your ‘A Game’ you have to make sure you don’t lose and we did that and now we’ve got a game against Wales that we’re really looking forward to.
“There were positives to take and we know if we want to win the World Cup we’ve got to play better than we did tonight so we’ll look at what we’ve got to improve on and we’ve got time to work on things now and we will do.”
Captain Harry Kane struck a similar tone.
“We definitely had good spells in the game where we really moved the ball well,” he said.
“It was probably just our final third play where we missed the last cross or the last finish but they’re the differences in these big World Cup games.
“Overall there’s things we can improve on but when you’re playing every three or four days in a World Cup you can’t be disappointed at being top of the group after two games.”
It certainly didn’t feel like lip service from Southgate, Maguire and Kane, with England’s stars looking genuinely happy to be heading home with a point and a place in the last 16 all-but confirmed.
That might not last long should they check social media once they get back to their hotel rooms, but there’s always a choice, and should England keep an even keel, they may well be able to drown out the negativity that has robbed them of a trophy lift in the past.
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- England’s draw to USA ‘reeked of Nations League’ but Gareth Southgate, Harry Maguire and Harry Kane’s upbeat positivity suggests they don’t care what boo boys think
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