Alli preaches 'no fear' as England face up to Colombia test
Dele Alli insists England fear no one at the World Cup and wants to bring his big-game reputation to bear on Russia 2018.
Gareth Southgate's men face Colombia in the last 16 on Tuesday in Moscow, with a quarter-final against Switzerland or Sweden the prize on offer.
It presents the Three Lions with a chance to win a knockout game at a major tournament for the first time since 2006, when another South American opponent, Ecuador, went down 1-0 to a David Beckham free-kick.
A feel-good factor remains around the current squad, despite a much-changed XI going down to a limp 1-0 defeat against Belgium in the final Group G game, although Tottenham midfielder Alli has endured a stop-start tournament.
A thigh injury sustained during the opening 2-1 win against Tunisia has left the 22-year-old sidelined since, but he does not regret the decision to play through the pain.
"I'm happy [Southgate] kept me on. I had a similar injury when [Spurs] played Real Madrid and I scored two," Alli said, reflecting on his star turn in Spurs' thrilling 3-1 win over the European champions at Wembley last November. "I was happy I wasn't taken off then."
— Dele (@dele_official) June 20, 2018
Goals in the biggest games have become a theme for Alli during his Spurs career.
He checked Chelsea's title-winning juggernaut with a match-winning brace at White Hart Lane in January 2017 and was also at the double this season as Tottenham won at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1990.
"I've heard people say that a lot, but I want to be performing in every game," the midfielder said.
"Different teams offer a different challenge in the game. In the Premier League, when you're playing against a team from top half of the table, it’s different to the bottom half.
There's a bit more space because they're willing to go up against you, looking to win the ball up higher up, which leaves a bit more space in behind the midfield and the defence.
"That's where I like playing. I want to score against everyone."
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 16, 2018
Even allowing for injury doubts over star man James Rodriguez, a Colombia side featuring the likes of Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and Juan Fernando Quintero can be expected to play their part in the type of game Alli relishes – and a challenge he expects England to meet head on.
"I think the World Cup is the highest level," he said. "The best teams and players coming together and playing against each other.
"But for me and as a team, we're not scared of anyone. We're not going to hide."
The knockout round brings, from an England perspective, the dreaded prospect of penalties.
In a run stretching back to the 1990 World Cup final against Germany, they have lost six of seven shootouts in major finals.
"You have to try and control every situation. You have to own it," Alli added, before stating he would be happy to step up from 12 yards.
"I want to help the team. I’m confident in myself and what's meant to be will be.
"I have to work hard on penalties and we have been. We've been trying to own the situation, not let it own us. We've changed our whole mindset for it."