Gareth Southgate says England are ready to carry “the dreams of a nation” as they prepare to start their World Cup adventure.
Months of preparations come to a head on Monday as the Three Lions take to the field at the Volgograd Arena and face Tunisia in their Group G opener.
England are chomping at the bit to get started after days of watching other World Cup games and hoping to kick-off a major tournament with a win for the first time since the 2006 World Cup.
There is belief that this young squad can do just that, helping to atone for the group-stage exit in Brazil four years ago and the humiliating Euro 2016 defeat to Iceland.
“You carry the dreams of a nation, and it’s impossible to say to any player you can go out and play without any feeling of pressure or any feeling or fear.
“But what you have to do is make sure that doesn’t control you and that you go for it in your performances.”
Southgate confirmed he has told the players of his line-up for the Tunisia match, but there was never any doubt over Harry Kane being the first name on the team sheet.
Handed the captain’s armband after a year of conjecture, the Tottenham sharpshooter is being backed to lead from the front – but Southgate underlined the need for support.
“He is a great leader in terms of his approach to everything about his profession.
“He is meticulous, is considered, he wants to be the best he can be, and he believes he can be one of the best in the world and his stats over the last few years tell us he’s heading that way, so of course he is a key player for us.
“Equally, we have other stories in our camp which I think help to take the pressure away from him.
“Dele (Alli), Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, we have (Jamie) Vardy who scored regularly for his club at a high level in the Premier League, so I think it’s important it isn’t just one story.
“So, although it’s important Harry is a big player for us, we have to be about the collective.”