Creative Soccer Culture

Dele Alli Talks England & World Cup For SoccerBible '32/12'

Sitting down with World Cup memories and aspirations equally balanced in his mind, Dele Alli spoke to SoccerBible for our '32/12' World Cup Special. From watching games as a kid to preparing to make his debut on the world's biggest footballing stage. It's go time...

Dele, how would you describe this England squad and the spirit you have, heading into this tournament?

We’ve got a lot of youth and it’s something we’re building together. It’s similar to Tottenham to be honest. We’ve got a young manager, the players all get on and we all want to achieve the same thing. I think we’re heading in a good direction. It’s an exciting time.

Away from the glamour that might be attached to club football, is it very different when it comes to representing your country?

It is an incredible feeling to put on the England shirt for me. It’s an honour that gives me goosebumps.

Every tournament, there are always some stand out players who it helps propel their careers. Do you see it as an opportunity to show the world what you can do?

It’s a great opportunity to be able to go out there and show what you can do but like always, the most important thing is to go out there and help the team. It’s not an individual sport, it’s very much a team sport. I don’t think many players will go there and think about themselves only, we all just want to do our best as a team.

Going back to the 2010 World Cup, you would have been around 14 years old. What are your memories from that tournament?

My memories from World Cups growing up, they weren’t really of things happening on the pitch. I remember all the people from around where I lived had all the flags on their houses and things like that. I like how everyone comes together to support the team. We’re all obviously different people to one another, but fans come together for the World Cup to support the national team.

When you were at MK Dons around the time of the 2014 World Cup. Can you remember thinking about Russia 2018 with an eye on getting to it as a player?

Obviously it’s always an aim to try and play for your country and to get to a World Cup. It seems a million miles away when you’re playing in League One though.

I can’t say I was focusing on those England dreams then because I was concentrating on what I needed to do with MK at the time. Then when I signed for Tottenham and went through the process of trying to get into that team there were a lot of challenges to complete and get past to be able to get to the position I am now. It’s all done in steps.


You made your England Under-19 debut, when you were at MK. What can you remember of being part of that England set up?

It was strange for me because I was still at MK at the time and there were a lot of other academy players from the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Man Utd and teams like that. I had been playing in League One and I made the decision to stay there so that I could play first team football, so it was a little different.

When I think back to playing for England in the younger age groups, I wasn’t starting regularly but it was a great experience to meet a lot of other players with different philosophies and different experiences.

What can you tell us about the experience of being part of the senior squad for the first time?

It was obviously a dream come true. Getting that call that means you’re going to be involved in not just the national team but the first team... I think my biggest highlight was that game against France when I scored. From there, going to the Euros in 2016, qualifying for it and experiencing that, it was probably one of the best and worst moments of my life but ultimately a great learning curve for me as well.

On a personal level, when someone mentions the World Cup to you, what goes through your head?

The Three Lions. It’s just all about the country coming together to support the national team. Every game that England play, with all those fans. It’s unbelievable to be a part of it. To be playing at the World Cup will be an honour.

There’s always a few underdog stories that come out of a World Cup. Do you like the unpredictable element that comes with a tournament as big as this one?

Of course. As well as the fans coming together, it’s also about these different teams coming together. You really never know what could happen.

What do you say to yourself before you get out there onto the pitch to play for England?

It’s the tactics. Just thinking about what you’ve been told before the game. Then you start singing the national anthem and the hairs on your neck start to stand up but really, you’re so focused on what you need to do in the game that you try not to let yourself think about anything else.


How would you describe the atmosphere on the pitch before an England game, in comparison to say a Champions League game?

They’re very similar. Champions League you obviously have that anthem and as a player you want those moments in the best competitions which are arguably, the World Cup and the Champions League so I think they are very similar but realistically, there is something special about playing for your country.

When it comes to the music side of things, what will you be listening to out in Russia? We saw you were at a Russ gig recently…

I’m a big fan of Russ, but that will be more for around the hotel and going to the game. As it gets closer to the game, I’ll probably start listening to a lot more grime and hip-hop. Stuff like 6ix9ine.

You could be out there for six weeks. Have you got any clothing or sneaker essentials you’ll be taking out?

I haven’t thought about it yet. It’s not really something you focus on until you’re packing your bags and right now people are more just hoping for that call to come in to say you’re going but I love a few trainers.

Finally, do you ever have a minute where you stop and think “I’m going to the World Cup, I’m playing for my country” – Is it surreal?

The thought does go through your head. It’s almost unbelievable but very believable too because it’s something you’ve been training towards for all your life. All the decisions I’ve made have been taken to get me to where I am today.

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Read the full interview in '32/12' magazine by SoccerBible. Pick up the special 2018 Russia World Cup edition here.


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