Gareth Southgate has urged his England players to seize the moment against Ukraine in Saturday night’s Euro 2020 quarter-final and push to make another piece of history.
The manager and his squad brought joy to the nation with the 2-0 last-16 victory over Germany at Wembley on Tuesday but he has stressed that they want more – specifically to reach back-to-back major tournament semi-finals for the first time since the 1960s.
Southgate’s team were World Cup semi-finalists in 2018 そして, under Sir Alf Ramsey, England reached the last four of the 1968 European Championship, having won the World Cup two years earlier.
England are heavy favourites to beat Ukraine in Rome and there have been suggestions that Southgate, who is preparing to revert to a back four after playing 3-4-3 against Germany and to recall Mason Mount, should think about resting players who are a booking from a one-game suspension – namely Harry Maguire, Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips and Phil Foden.
Southgate said he would not entertain the notion as it would be ridiculous to look beyond Ukraine, 特に理由は イングランド are not exactly renowned for making the semi-finals of major competitions. Since the 1960s, they have made the last four at only Euro 96 そしてその 1990 そして 2018 World Cups.
“We’re not in any way, shape or form complacent,” Southgate said. “We’ve got to stay composed and not fearful, we’ve got to be on the front foot. There’s a danger that you hold something in your hands in life … you’ve got half of something and you don’t want to lose the half rather than reach out and go for the whole. We’ve got to take the next step forward.
“We know now there is an understandable increase in expectation from everybody else and I’ve got to manage that for the players, make sure they stay composed, not anxious about what this could be. It’s totally about staying in the present and focusing on this immediate challenge. We are very focused on where we want to head – we’re not satisfied with where we’ve got to – but we have to deliver that.
“We’ve moved on from Germany pretty quickly and it’s not easy because you all get lovely messages. If they’re reading the papers or watching television, I’m sure there’ll be lots to enjoy for them. But the mindset has got to be about Saturday. Not beyond Saturday. There’s not a consideration in our heads beyond Saturday.”
Southgate reported that the winger Bukayo Saka had a “slight knock”, understood to be nothing serious, and the manager made it clear that the players on yellow cards were firmly in his thoughts.
When asked about the fear that somebody could incur a ban and miss a potential semi-final against Denmark or the Czech Republic at Wembley, Southgate said: “In terms of consideration – none at all. The thought that we can be resting players to get through to a semi-final … I can’t think of a nation that would do that. I have never seen it happen and it is not in our thinking. It would be a bad message for our players and it would be the wrong message for Ukraine. I don’t think we can fiddle around.
“I was on a yellow before the semi-final with Germany [at Euro 96] and would have missed the final had we ever got there if I had picked up a yellow in that game. You are aware of it as a player. But you have to have the same commitment because if you aren’t that committed, we are not going to get to the semi-final anyway. That’s the reality. You can’t be thinking of what’s next.”
England’s history is littered with cautionary tales but the one that stands out from the recent past is the Euro 2016 last-16 defeat against unfancied Iceland, when Roy Hodgson’s team were gripped by panic after seeing a 1-0 lead turn into a 2-1 deficit by the 18th minute.
“It ended up as a reference for us of seeing anxiety of when things don’t quite go to plan,” Southgate said. “I won’t talk about the Iceland game specifically [with the players]. But I do think that you shouldn’t avoid negativity. We do talk as a team, 例えば, about how we are going to be if the opposition score.
“The psychology changes with events that happen during the game and, if you avoid discussing that, I think it can breed anxiety when you are in the middle of the game. When you’ve talked those scenarios through as a group, which we did before the last game in particular, then everybody knows how we are going to deal with it.”
Mount was withdrawn at the last moment from the final group tie against the Czech Republic after being forced to isolate following contact with Scotland’s Billy Gilmour, who had tested positive for Covid-19. The midfielder was an unused substitute against Germany, having rejoined the squad only on the day of the game, but Southgate is keen to reintegrate his energy and ability to connect the play.