As the tension builds ahead of England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia, we asked three snooker stars to give their views on Gareth Southgate’s team, and their predictions for the match on Wednesday evening….
How much have you enjoyed watching England so far?
Ricky Walden: It has been refreshing to see us having a go and playing in a positive way with an attacking formation. Before the tournament I was confident and felt we would at least reach the quarter-finals.
Mark King: My wife and my youngest daughter Polly don’t really watch football, but we all sat and watched the Colombia game together. We were all running about in the garden when Kane scored during the match. When it went to penalties we thought it would be the same old story, but we did it. I thought we played really well against Sweden. We haven’t produced the best we can yet. We have a lot more in the locker. Other teams should be more scared of us than we should be of them.
Alfie Burden: It has been so special to watch it with my son Lene. I was 13 when we reached the semi finals in 1990. Expectations were so low for this tournament, but I was quietly optimistic. It has been brilliant.
Who have been the key players?
Walden: As a Liverpool fan I am biased but I think Jordan Henderson has been out best player so far. He was excellent in the last few weeks of the season for Liverpool and he has kept that form going. Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier have also been very good.
King: Maguire at the back has been unbelievable. He wins every single header. I’d just like to see Raheem Stirling do a bit more. He has been pretty poor by his standards, but hopefully he will come good when we need him to. Trippier is brilliant as well.
Burden: Sterling has had a lot of unwarranted stick but he does a lot of work for the team, stretching defences. Maguire and Trippier have been superb. Harry Kane has been magnificent at holding the ball up and drawing fouls.
Where will you be watching the game against Croatia?
Walden: Just at home on the sofa with a drink or two.
King: I’m out in Campoamor in Spain with my son Freddie’s football team at the moment. We are supposed to be flying home on Wednesday evening so as it stands I might miss the game. I’m trying to change the flight so I don’t have to miss it.
One of the great sporting icons of a generation.
And that’s David Beckham on the right.
Burden: I have watched all the games at home so far, except the Sweden game when I was at a party in Manchester with David Beckham, for his dad’s 70th birthday. I have got to know David as our sons play football together. He is very positive – it’s nice to speak to someone like that. If we get to the final I might try and get a spare slot on his jet on Sunday! My dad is out in Russia for the Croatia game.
What’s the score going to be?
Walden: It will be tight but England will win 1-0.
King: We’ll win 2-1 or 3-1.
Burden: 3-1 to England
If England win the World Cup, how will you celebrate?
Walden: If the semi-final goes the right way on Wednesday, I’m hoping to go out to Russia for the final. To celebrate in Red Square in Moscow with the England fans would be amazing. I have been talking to (former pro) Dave Harold and a few other friends and if we reach the final we’ll be looking at options to get there.
King: I would just be running about if we won. It would be incredible for the country. The last 20 years have been about losing on penalties and really tough times for the team. In fairness, this is probably the one time we have gone into it and not really expected all that much. All of a sudden we are in the semi-finals. I think we can do it. We were building up for 2022 and aiming to do well there, but we have a real chance to do it now.
Burden: I’m not sure as my dad is in Russia and Lene is in Florida with the Arsenal squad this weekend so he’ll be watching it there. The whole country is just riding the wave at the moment. It’s amazing.