England may be on the verge of a first World Cup semi-final in 28 years, but the players do not appear to be troubled by nerves just yet.
They trained early on Friday morning in Zelenogorsk, and there were plenty of smiles and laughter as they played a dodgeball-style game in order to warm-up.
The only downside was that injury-doubt Jamie Vardy could not play a full part in training with his team-mates ahead of Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final meeting with Sweden in Samara.
Jamie Vardy could not play a full part in training for England’s quarter final against Sweden
The striker sustained a groin strain during the last-16 penalty shootout victory over Colombia
Vardy was only able to join in with the warm-up for Friday morning’s training session
The Leicester striker sustained a groin strain during the last-16 penalty shootout victory over Colombia on Tuesday, a problem that required an injection. He was only able to join in with the warm-up for Friday’s session.
The Football Association said that every other member of Gareth Southgate’s squad was fit enough to train. The England boss had suggested that as many as three players were doubtful heading into the Sweden match.
Vardy aside, it was a cheerful picture as England trained in the driving rain at the stadium of Spartak Zelenogorsk, near their hotel in Repino just outside Saint Petersburg.
The FA said that every other member of Gareth Southgate’s squad was fit enough to train
The rest of the players took part in a dodgeball-style training exercise in Zelenogorsk
England have often used different games in order to gain fitness, such as kabbadi
They will take their two and a half hour flight south to Samara later on Friday, where they will face the Swedes for a place in the last four.
To keep the pressure off the players, they were engaged in a game of dodgeball in order to warm-up, the latest in a string of unconventional games used by Gareth Southgate’s staff to get their charges limbered up for training.
Previous exercises have included the tag-style game kabbadi, as well as the throwing an catching of Nerf missiles.
The England players looked largely nerveless and happy despite the high pressure game
It looked bitingly cold and wet in Zelenogorsk, with Dele Alli especially wrapped up
England will reach the World Cup semi finals for the first time since 1990 with a victory
As well as distracting from England’s biggest game in years – their first World Cup quarter final since 2006 – it also took the players’ minds off the bad weather.
Heavy rain was falling in Zelengorsk and it looked bitingly coldm, with most players wearing hats or gloves. Dele Alli wore a snood pulled up over his nose and mouth to keep out the chill.
England beat Colombia in the last 16 on penalties to reach this stage, and will play either Russia or Croatia in the semi-final if they see off Sweden.
Gareth Southgate appears to have a largely fully fit squad to choose from for the match