Gareth Southgate believes England are ready to make history at Euro 2020

Three Lions coach says players are not satisfied with a place in last four

Gareth Southgate believes England are ready to make history at Euro 2020 and reach their first major tournament final since 1966.

England face Denmark at Wembley in the semi-finals on Wednesday knowing victory will earn them a place in a major final for the first time since lifting the World Cup at the same ground 55 years ago.

After topping their group and beating Germany in the last 16, the Three Lions increased expectation with Saturday’s impressive 4-0 quarter-final win against Ukraine in Rome.

England have fallen at the semi-final stage at major tournaments on four occasions since their World Cup triumph.

The World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia in 2018 was the latest, but Southgate believes England have learned from that and are ready to step up.

“We’ve knocked off so many hoodoos or perceived barriers already and I feel like this group of players will feel this is just the next challenge,” Southgate said.

“I guess the interesting part for us is we won’t feel totally satisfied if it’s just a semi-final for us, whereas maybe three years ago, although there was massive disappointment after the semi-final, there was a feeling we’d come a long way.

“Now we’ve replicated what we did there, but that won’t be enough to fulfil the group. That’s a positive sign.

“The other thing that is so positive, these young players – 18, 19, 20, 21 – are getting more experiences of England that are positive and enjoyable and they’re feeling what it can be like to be in an England shirt and have fun and win matches and have a relationship with the fans that is positive.

“That’s so important for a generation to come. We’ll get more out of their talent if we can keep that relationship with the fans.

"These nights bring together families, communities. To give people hope and looking forward is a part of the privilege of the job."

A key difference to 2018 is heightened expectation, with Southgate himself admitting their benchmark in Russia was to end England’s 12-year wait for a knockout victory.

The former England defender now has more knockout wins than any national team manager and will go looking for another in front of a 60,000 crowd.

“It’s great to be coming back now,” said Southgate, who expects teenager Bukayo Saka to return to training on Monday after missing the Ukraine match with a slight knock.

“To go and have that different environment, preparation, focus was definitely helpful. But now to be coming back to Wembley is a great thing for us.”

Denmark have been made tighter by the shock of Christian Eriksen suffering a cardiac arrest in their group opener.

“We talk about perspective in sport but we rarely have it,” Southgate said. “This was a moment that brought it home for all of us.

“I can also imagine what it has done for the Danish team, their bond. We are talking about the things we have been through but what they went through that day – the way their captain was and the way the group was – and how that would have connected with their supporters. That’s pretty powerful.

“Those things definitely have an impact on your thinking. We talk about pressure a lot and we lose perspective of what that might be when we play sport.

“But I know our players are at their best when they are calm and playing another game and the thinking process is really clear.

“Clearing that clutter away and clearing that noise away for the last couple of games and ahead of this next one is a crucial part of our preparation really.”

Updated: July 5th 2021, 7:15 AM
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