DOHA, Qatar, Nov 17 – James Maddison said there was great “energy” in the England World Cup squad as Gareth Southgate’s men seek to take the final step and win their first major trophy for 56 years.
The team, spearheaded by striker Harry Kane, reached the semi-finals of the tournament in Russia in 2018 and suffered a painful defeat to Italy in the final of year’s delayed Euro 2020.
The players, wearing their blue training kit, had a gentle workout at their Al Wakrah training base outside Doha, as the evening call to prayer rang out around the stadium.
Manchester City pair Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips, who have been out for significant spells due to injury, were part of the group.
Leicester midfielder Maddison, who only has one international cap under his belt, said the mood in the camp was buoyant, 24 hours after they landed in Doha.
“We’ve all seen England at major tournaments in recent years and they’ve been brilliant,” said the 25-year-old, who added that he had had a “positive scan” after hurting his knee in a Leicester match at the weekend.
“There was a feel about the Euros and in Russia that the togetherness was all there for everyone to see publicly, in-house. And coming back into the squad and meeting up in the first few days it’s been the same sort of thing.
“You can feel it. There’s a real good energy.”
– Pressure –
England have struggled over the past year and were relegated from the top tier of the Nations League but Maddison said that would not reduce the pressure on the players.
“We know the expectations are high and in the last two major tournaments the boys have been absolutely brilliant — a semi-final and then a final,” he said.
“There’s only one step further you can go and that’s winning it so the fans are right to have high expectations. We’ve got a brilliant group and hopefully we can go all the way.”
Maddison, a goalscoring midfielder, said he never felt his chance with England had gone despite not receiving a call-up since winning his sole cap in 2019.
“There were obviously times where you might feel you’re playing well and not selected, which was the case a couple of times, but it’s about having the right mindset and staying hungry to achieve and not thinking it’s a closed door,” he said.
“We’ve seen with Gareth especially in the past that he’s brought players back in if they’re in good form and thankfully that was me for this tournament.”
Maddison said he hoped he could be the difference-maker who can help England win their first major trophy since they were crowned world champions in 1966.
He was also asked about the players’ attitudes to playing in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
“We’re aware of the problems and the issues here but we’re people who stand for diversity and inclusivity,” he said, highlighting a previous statement signed by England’s Football Association that stressed “diversity is a strength”.