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Gareth Southgate: England squad’s spirit is special – now let’s make the final

By July 4, 2021No Comments

Gareth Southgate praised the spirit of his England squad as he challenged them to make history once again by reaching the Euro 2020 final.

The Three Lions set up a Wembley semi-final against Denmark with a convincing 4-0 victory over Ukraine in Rome on Saturday night.

Harry Kane scored twice and headers from Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson wrapped up a comfortable win at the Stadio Olimpico.

The result extends a fine run for England at the finals and continues a streak of clean sheets since the tournament began.

While there was plenty of praise for the likes of Kane, Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling, Southgate was quick to hail his entire 26-man squad – especially those who did not make the cut for the bench in Italy.

“They gave a fantastic performance,” he said of his team.

“Not only the players that started but the players that came into the game, they kept the momentum going. We were able to get the players off on a yellow card and a couple that were carrying knocks.

“But actually I’m more thinking about the players I had to leave out of the 23 and the ones I didn’t get on the pitch. They’ve been such a massive part of what we’re doing and it’s so difficult to keep a squad of this size involved, happy, feeling valued.

“Those guys have been phenomenal with the way they’ve sacrificed themselves for the group and understood the importance of the group.

“We’re in a semi-final because of that spirit, in a lot of aspects.

“Of course the quality of the play is important. But I’ve seen lots of nations go out of tournaments because the spirit hasn’t been like these guys have got.

“It’s something very special that they’ve got to recognise.”

England have broken records and ended hoodoos during the competition as they reached their first European Championship semi-final since 1996 with their canter against Ukraine.

Now Southgate wants them to go one further and become the first England side to reach the final of the tournament.

“There’s been so many things along the way, fantastic players, great staff in every department that create a good and professional environment and we’ve had to suffer a bit to get to where we are,” he said.

“Some difficult nights and tough performances but we are now playing with a lot belief and the players can see what’s possible.

“We still have a long way to go and we are not satisfied. Tonight is a really enjoyable night for everybody but I’ve got to say I was already thinking about the next challenge before the end of the game.

“That’s the one for us – we’ve never been to a European Championship final. It’s another opportunity to make history.”

Earlier in the tournament, Southgate had called for better use of set-pieces from his side.

They eventually came good as Maguire’s header and Henderson’s first England goal came from a free-kick and corner, respectively.

“The delivery was great and yes, we were really pleased,” added Southgate.

“We’ve talked a lot this week about set play goals, we’ve put more emphasis on it again. It looked like we’d be dangerous in training yesterday and very often that transfers into the game and that’s what happened.”

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