ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate is not surprised Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has identified Raheem Sterling as one of the biggest threats to his country's World Cup hopes.

Sterling has been criticised in some quarters during England's campaign in Russia but is expected to start in tonight's crunch semi-final clash against Croatia in Moscow.

Southgate told his pre-match press conference: "I'm not surprised that Croatia have identified Raheem as a key player.

"If you look at all of our attacking patterns and the way that our front four have combined and played, he's been instrumental in that, so I think he's a player that's really appreciated by the team.

"I've seen lots of ex-players and had lots of messages from ex-players as well who have the same view, so we're really pleased with his contribution, and his work-rate as well without the ball has been incredible for us."

Southgate was also asked about World Cup fever gripping fans at home, and the popularity of the song 'Football's Coming Home', which was first released for Euro 96, where he missed the crucial penalty in a semi-final shoot-out with Germany.

He said with a smile: "'Football's Coming Home' is a song I couldn't even listen to for 20 years, frankly, so for me it has a slightly different feel. It's nice to hear people enjoying it again, anyway."

Midfielder Jordan Henderson added: "It's a special feeling to know that the people back home and out here in Russia are enjoying the experience just as much as we are.

"All the celebrations and the songs they are singing back home, it inspires us as players to be able to bring the nation together and put smiles on people's faces.

"That's the biggest thing so far to come out of it and we just want to continue to do that and do everybody proud."

Southgate also expressed his gratitude to the people who had helped him along the path to managing a team in a World Cup semi-final.

He said: "Whenever you are involved in a tournament like this, you do think about the people who have helped you along the way, and every coach I worked with, teacher, players that I've played with...

"I've had lots of lovely messages from people and some big influences in my life, all of whom have played a part in my sitting here today, so I'm very grateful for support and help I've had across my 30 years in football, and of course from my parents before that.

"You are always conscious of that because none of us are where we are just because of ourselves. It's the support of those around you and the people that were there for you in difficult times as well as when things were going well."