By Rory O’Callaghan
Last Updated: 14/06/18 11:14pm
England will play without fear when they take on Tunisia in their opening World Cup match on Monday, according to Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard.
The Three Lions begin their campaign with a tough test in Volgograd against Tunisia, who are currently ranked 21st in the world.
Lingard insists there is real belief in the England camp that they can reach the latter stages of the tournament – confidence he says stems from the appointment of Gareth Southgate.
“Southgate has come in with the mentality to play with freedom, play without fear, and you will enjoy your time more,” Lingard said.
“So, as a group of players, that is what we are going to do – enjoy our football, play with no fear and play exciting football at the same time.
“Of course, we want to go all the way to the final, but we are going to take each game as it comes and prepare for each game as we normally do.”
Lingard is in contention to start against Tunisia after a superb individual season for Manchester United, in which he scored 13 goals in 48 appearances for his club.
The 25-year-old has developed into a regular starter for England since being handed his senior debut by Southgate in his first match in charge in October 2016.
“He understands the way I play,” said Lingard. “To work with him at youth level as well, then coming into the first-team set-up, that’s always going to help.
“He had faith in me to play me against Malta for my debut and I can only thank him for that and ever since then I have kicked on and done well.”
Lingard is eager to improve and says he has looked to model himself on Andres Iniesta, who scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands.
“I used to watch (Andres) Iniesta a lot – I liked him from Barcelona. You just pick up little things of what they do and try to put it into your game,” said Lingard.
“Just the way he graces the pitch. He’s silky, an intelligent footballer.
“And people have said I’m an intelligent footballer, so I have to learn off the other players that are intelligent and play in the same position as well.”