John Stones tells England to start new era by healing World Cup wound

• Semi-final defeat still plays on your mind, says Stones
• Croatia’s Luka Modric wary of Harry Kane threat

John Stones has urged England to “set things straight” as they prepare to confront Croatia in the Nations League just 93 days after losing against Zlatko Dalic’s side in the World Cup semi-final.

Gareth Southgate will gauge the evolution of his team since the summer tournament at an empty Stadion HNK Rijeka on Friday with Uefa having barred supporters from the fixture after a swastika was marked on their pitch before a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy. The visitors, while bolstered by fresh faces in their squad, will still field a side largely comprising those who featured at the Luzhniki Stadium with points to prove.

“That defeat still plays on your mind,” said Stones, who played the full 120 minutes in the semi-final as Croatia overcame an early deficit to prevail in extra time. “It was such a big occasion for us as players and the nation, and so difficult to take. But this is a new chapter and a new start for us. We are all relishing playing against Croatia, and want to set things straight and get back on to a winning run.”

Danny Rose, Danny Welbeck and Alex McCarthy travel to Rijeka having sustained minor injuries with their clubs last weekend. Southgate is expected to hand Ben Chilwell a first competitive appearance at left-back as he considers switching to a back four. “We’ve always got to be flexible,” he said. “In my time with England at various levels we’ve played 4-2-3-1, a diamond, three at the back, 3-4-3, so you’re always looking at what’s best to get your best players on the pitch and cause the opposition problems.

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“Given the proximity to this game, the semi-final is still fresh in everybody’s mind. But, as a team, we are looking to how we improve and bring younger players into the system. We are looking to evolve and move on to the next challenge. We learned a huge amount from the summer, but we are two games down the line now. We’ve got 18 matches before the next championships so we want to blood new players, look at different things and make sure we are best prepared for the next tournament.”

Dalic, unlike Southgate, felt sufficiently confident to name his starting lineup, with six of the team having also begun the semi‑final. His captain, Luka Modric – now recognised by Fifa as the best player in the world – is hoping his team are better placed now than when they were overwhelmed 6-0 by Spain in Elche last month. He suggested that game “came too early” for Croatia, although he is wary of the threat posed by Harry Kane.

“If you look at the number of goals he is scoring for Tottenham, taking them into the Premier League title race – which isn’t easy because other clubs are investing more money – then he’s proved himself one of the world’s best forwards already,” Modric said. “If he continues to develop he can achieve even more, but he’s already one of the best in the world.”

The Football Association will consider the candidacy of Tottenham’s head of coaching and player development, John McDermott, as they seek a replacement for the outgoing technical director, Dan Ashworth. The 49‑year‑old is part of Mauricio Pochettino’s inner circle at Spurs, overseeing every age group at the club as well as having an input in transfer policy.

Ashworth, who will leave in the new year for a similar position at Brighton, and Southgate are to have an input into the appointment of a successor. It is unclear whether McDermott, who rejected an approach from Manchester United for his services in late 2015, would be interested in the role.


Dominic Fifield in Rijeka

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