John Stones hopes to move on from his World Cup frustration and “put things right” when England take on Croatia in the Nations League.
The Three Lions’ third run to the last four of a World Cup came to a heartbreaking end in July as Zlatko Dalic’s side came from behind to secure a 2-1 extra-time win in Moscow.
Mario Mandzukic ran behind Stones to slam home the winner – a moment the Manchester City defender is sure to have replayed in his head hundreds of times since then.
The 24-year-old refrained from talking about revenge on the eve of the game, but the defender spoke of improving aspects of the display when they step out at the empty Stadion HNK Rijeka.
“I think however we want to put it, we’ve got to play them no matter what,” Stones said of the Group A4 match, which will be played behind closed doors as Croatia complete a UEFA stadium ban for having a swastika on their pitch.
“I don’t want to say anything about the World Cup. I think we’ve got a new game, a new challenge in front of us.
“Obviously it will be a different environment for me personally and a lot of the lads without having any fans here, but that’s something that we can’t control and it’s down to what happened here in the past.
“So, it’s a great experience for us all and hopefully we can put things right maybe that happened in the World Cup.
“We want to come here and show a good account of ourselves, show that we can hopefully beat Croatia and keep fighting in this Nations League.”
England lost their first ever Nations League match 2-1 against Spain, who then securing an eye-catching 6-0 win against Croatia days later.
Southgate’s side would be wise to expect a response from the World Cup runners-up on a night that could see some new faces get a run out.
Jadon Sancho, James Maddison, Mason Mount and Lewis Dunk are in the senior squad for the first time, but the quartet have seamlessly slotted in.
“They’ve hit the ground running,” Stones told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I wish I could have done it how they have coming into their first camp.
“I was a lot more nervous than they were.
“They’ve expressed themselves and I think that’s a great environment that we’ve set, a welcoming environment.
“We want players to feel comfortable and try and get the best out of them.
“They’ve got in the squad because of the ability that they’ve shown in the games and what they have, so it’s an exciting time for English football with all the young talent that’s coming through.
“It’s something that we should, as a nation, be proud of and grasp.
“We should keep encouraging these young players to keep improving and keep striving to play more regular football, which then will get them into what they want and hopefully get them in more England squads, more experience and better things for them as players.”