'Ten months ago they were throwing paper planes': Southgate says England have reconnected with fans

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England v Colombia (19:00 BST, Tuesday 3 July)

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England boss Gareth Southgate says his team have reconnected with supporters and created a fresh air of excitement as they prepare to meet Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday.

Southgate contrasted England's previously uncomfortable relationship with their fans with the goodwill and optimism fuelling their attempt to reach the quarter-finals.

"The players have been able to change perceptions of how an England team might play. We mustn't lose sight of that," he told BBC Sport.

"Ten months ago we qualified for the World Cup by beating Slovenia and people were throwing paper aeroplanes on to the pitch at Wembley. We were driving back to our hotel after beating Malta with some obscene chants being thrown at us from supporters."

Southgate added: "I feel like we've started to connect the team with the public again. I feel like we've created excitement like we've played in a style that has really shown an expression of what young English players are capable of, and I want us to continue doing that."

England have a pathway opening in front of them here in Russia, with a quarter-final meeting with either Sweden or Switzerland if they can overcome Colombia in Moscow.

They beat Tunisia 2-1 and Panama 6-1 before losing 1-0 to Belgium to finish second in Group G.

And Southgate has great confidence in his relatively inexperienced England squad, saying: "I really believe in the group of players we have got. They are young. They are inexperienced.

"For some of them, this will be one of the biggest games they'll have been involved in - but maybe not the biggest. We've always got to keep that in context for the players."

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