Curtis Davies told Sky Sports England’s possible opponents were on the players’ minds during their 1-0 defeat to Belgium.
With much of the talk in the build-up to England’s final group game revolving around the possibility of avoiding a potential tough quarter-final with Brazil should they win Group G, manager Gareth Southgate said his priority would be to win Thursday night’s curtain-closer – but still named eight changes from the side which had thrashed Panama on Sunday.
But Davies, a former England Under-21 defender, told Sky Sports after appearing on the Football Social that a potential easier route would have been on the players’ minds in the build-up to that Belgium loss.
He said: “Naturally, you take one game as a time, and you really do, but you do have thoughts of a route, when it’s a template like this where you actually know who you’re going to play.
“It’s different in the FA Cup, where there might be some small teams in but you don’t know who you’ll face. Even if they don’t say it publicly, some players will be thinking about the possible route to the final.
“The players who are close to each other will be talking about it. But in football, no one wants to show they are too confident to people they don’t really know, because otherwise there’s a danger of coming across as thinking you’ve won something already.
“They might say it to their close friends within the squad, but not too publicly – and if they did, I think Gareth Southgate would shut it down straight away.”
Having made so many changes for the final group game, it was a chance for some players to impress – and despite rating Danny Rose as England’s best performer on the night, Davies said he had not done enough to unseat first-choice Ashley Young from the left-wing back slot.
He said: “I don’t think Young has done enough to lose his place. Rose, obviously can open up and run down that left-side a bit more naturally, and that’s why he seems more positive, but I know Ashley Young and the role he has played for the team has been brilliant. It’s a healthy dilemma for him to have.
“As much as we talk about Rose going down the left, but Young can chop back onto his right, and sometimes that’s the worst thing for a defender when someone’s got an opening and it’s just tough to defend against. You take that step back, and your striker’s in a bit more space, and you have to make up the ground.”