Kyle Walker believes England’s players are focused on being at the World Cup for a long time, not just a good time.
The Three Lions are preparing to take on Colombia in the last 16, a match manager Gareth Southgate has already billed as the nation’s most important fixture in a decade.
Since arriving in Russia, Southgate has encouraged his squad to enjoy themselves on the biggest stage of all and they have obliged in a variety of colourful ways.
There have been inflatable flamingo races in their hotel pool, an ongoing darts challenge against the travelling media, endless references to Love Island and Fortnite and even Jamie Vardy’s questioning Harry Maguire about the size of his head during a press conference.
But Walker has made it clear the team will not be distracted from the job at hand.
“We all need to go and express ourselves, but there’s a fine line between having fun and obviously getting down to business,” he told FIFA.com.
“I think there’s a fine line. You don’t want it to be regimented or to feel as if it’s being dictated to you. We are all good players, otherwise we wouldn’t be in the England team, and we are in the business end now so we’ll put the fun on the back-burner a bit. But we still need to enjoy our football.”
England have not played Colombia since 2005, when a Michael Owen hat-trick sealed a 3-2 win, and the business of analysing the South Americans has been ongoing for the past couple of days at the team’s Repino base camp.
“We’ve seen a few clips of them, we know where their weaknesses are but we also know where their strengths are,” said Walker.
“They’ve got (Juan) Cuadrado, a very experienced and direct player, and (Radamel) Falcao speaks for himself. He gets goals and is a big threat in the box, so we just have to try and play our game, and let them worry about us. We have key men in key areas and we will be a really big threat to them, I believe.”
“I want to play against the best players in the world week-in, week-out because it’s only going to make me better as a player, so I’m excited.”
Walker’s team-mate Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, admitted he was feeling the buzz of fighting for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It’s exciting, this is what you dream about as a young kid, playing at the World Cup,” he said.
“It’s important for us to go out there and attack the game, to express ourselves, enjoy playing and show the world what we are capable of.”