Milner: England team spirit has cured Brazil ills

Ross McLean
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MIDFIELDER James Milner believes victory over Switzerland in their opening Euro 2016 qualification clash has galvanised the England camp and proves the Three Lions are not suffering a crisis of confidence following stinging post-World Cup criticism.

Despite enduring their worst World Cup showing for half a century in Brazil, England responded by seizing control of Group E with a commanding 2-0 victory at St Jakob Park courtesy of a Danny Welbeck double.

And Milner insists the England set-up is a harmonious place, with camaraderie completely at odds with the alleged dysfunctional ethos of recent England cricket teams, as portrayed by batsman Kevin Pietersen.

“Going away to Switzerland, very highly-ranked, had a good tournament, the talk around the England team wasn’t great and people were saying what a difficult game it was,” said Milner. “That’s when you need your team spirit to come through to go there and get a result, and we did that and we played very well. Teams with less spirit and less togetherness might not have done that. It’s a tight-knit group. That’s what you need going into tournaments and coming out of bad times in tournaments.”

England are overwhelming favourites to maintain their winning start to qualification with matches against perennial whipping boys San Marino at Wembley tomorrow night and in Estonia on Sunday. Milner admits England should steam-roller San Marino – a team ranked joint-bottom in the world alongside Bhutan – but is keen for the side to use the showdown to hone qualities showcased against Switzerland.

“We can’t let our standards drop,” the Manchester City player added. “Everyone knows this is a game we should win and that’s not being disrespectful. We want to keep improving.”