Alli's love for big games could make difference for England
PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 July 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
England will wear an all-white kit this evening while Croatia will be in black and it could be a good omen for Tottenham's Dele Alli
When Dele Alli scored England’s second goal in their 2-0 win over Sweden in Saturday’s quarter-final, he become the Three Lions second-youngster scorer at a World Cup behind Michael Owen, who was 18 at France 1998.
Although the Spurs playmaker is 22, the aforementioned fact highlights just how difficult it is for talented youngsters to make their mark on a tournament.
It is far to say Alli is yet to truly put his stamp on this World Cup, but ahead of tonight’s semi-final with Croatia, don’t be surprised if he makes the difference.
Tottenham Hotspur supporters have become accustomed to seeing the midfielder deliver on the biggest of occasions.
While some criticised the former MK Dons ace for his performances last season, he fully recovered from a slow start to be one of Mauricio Pochettino’s key men once again.
He didn’t score 22 times like he did during the 2016/17 campaign, but a final goal tally of 14 with numerous assists along the way was equally impressive for Alli last term.
What is even more eye-catching about his goals, is the fact he usually makes his mark and finds the net in big games.
Last season Alli scored in the 4-1 win over Liverpool, made the difference for Spurs in their stunning 3-1 victory over Real Madrid at Wembley with a brace and also scored two at Stamford Bridge in another memorable 3-1 success – this time over Chelsea.
It wasn’t only during the past campaign either, in the 2016/17 term he scored in a 2-0 win against Manchester City and in the return fixture – a 2-2 draw at the Etihad.
Alli also netted a double in a victory over Chelsea and found the net in the last north London derby at White Hart Lane against Arsenal (2-0 win).
The Spurs man has also demonstrated his class in losing moments for Tottenham during their biggest games with goals in the FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea in April 2017 and in a case of déjà vu, he netted in the last-four 2-1 defeat to Manchester United this year too.
It says a lot about Alli’s character that after England’s win over Sweden, he admitted he needs to try and play better.
After scoring at the World Cup, the Three Lions midfielder could have lapped up the feat, but instead focused on how he needs to improve.
“Personally, I don’t think I played as well as I should have,” Alli told Press Association Sport, following Saturday’s win.
“In the first half I wasn’t as sharp or as good on the ball as I should have been, but you have those games and thankfully the team played so well.
“The team were resilient, defended well and dominated the game. It’s always nice to score, but, more importantly we’re through to the next round.”
It was the answer of a mature 22-year-old who appears to be growing and improving both on and off the pitch with every passing season.
Later this evening, Alli will be involved in a midfield battle against Croatia captain and star player Luka Modric.
Although the Spurs man won’t be directly up against the Real Madrid man, he will have to keep an eye on the playmaker.
It won’t be the first time the pair have met this season with Alli getting the upper-hand on Modric and his club side on November 1.
The Tottenham youngster scored twice and ran Real Madrid ragged at Wembley in one of his best displays of the campaign.
A nice omen ahead of this evening is Alli will again be wearing all white tonight, this time of England and not Spurs, and Modric will also be in black – like he was in London on that night.
Both may be playing for their countries on this occasion, but don’t be surprised if the same outcome occurs and Alli delivers on the world stage.