Croatia - Gareth Southgate has
backed England's young guns to deal with the "strange" situation of
playing in an empty stadium when they bid to avenge their World Cup semi-final
loss against Croatia.
Southgate's side were
beaten by Croatia in Russia earlier this year when they stood on the cusp of
their first World Cup final appearance since 1966.
loss won't be erased by a victory in Friday's Nations League clash in Rijeka,
but it would at least prove to England manager Southgate that his youthful team
are continuing to develop.
Southgate has selected
two teenagers - Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and Chelsea's Mason Mount,
currently on loan at Derby -- in his squad, while Leicester's James Maddison
has been called up for the first time.
Chalobah is another hoping to win his first cap, with Leicester's Ben Chilwell
and Tottenham's Harry Winks aiming to win their second.
"The team we play
will be a team we believe in, whoever is ready to start," Southgate told
reporters on Thursday.
in the squad that's here that we we're not thinking of putting into the team.
experimentation, it's players we believe in.
OK, in a lot of cases are relatively inexperienced at the highest level, but
players we've enjoyed working with, have shown in training this week that they
can handle this level.
"We'll pick a
team that we think is the best one to win the game."
It will be an
especially unusual test for England given the Stadion HNK Rijeka will be
deserted while the hosts complete a UEFA ground ban for having a swastika image
on the pitch during a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy.
It is believed
Southgate showed his players footage of last year's La Liga clash between
Barcelona and Las Palmas at an empty Camp Nou to prepare them for the stadium
"It will be a
strange experience. I guess we effectively do that every day of our lives - we
play football in front of a handful of people watching, so it's not totally
unique," Southgate said.
"But for a match
situation, in an international, very different.
"I am sure
Croatia feel the same. For them, not to have the encouragement of what is an
incredibly passionate support will be very different for them.
"So, it's a shame
especially for our travelling fans, who were brilliant for us all summer and so
many of whom haven't missed an England game for years."
Croatia finished as
World Cup runners-up after losing the final to France and Southgate is
expecting another stern examination from Zlatko Dalic's team.
"I am looking at
their midfield - Modric, Rakitic, Kovacic, with Rebic and Perisic. I think
they're OK!" he said.
"So, it's a
really good test for us. We've obviously got a different team from the team
that played in the semi-final and it's a good challenge for us.
matches against top teams we're learning a huge amount from."