England have big chance to end appalling Euro record, says Southgate

Gareth Southgate said England have a fantastic opportunity to rectify an “appalling” record at the European Championship next summer that has seen them reach only one semi-final in almost 60 years.

With all three group stage games and the semi-final and final being held at Wembley, England have been installed as favourites to win the tournament by some bookmakers despite that solitary appearance in the last four on home soil in 1996. Southgate was a member of that side under Terry Venables who lost to the tournament winner Germany in a shootout after the then Aston Villa defender’s penalty miss.

Yet with England having been paired with Croatia, one of the play-off winners Scotland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia or Norway, and the Czech Republic in a relatively favourable draw given Joachim Löw’s Germany found themselves in the same group as the holders Portugal and the world champions France, their manager believes it is up to his players to seize the moment.

“It’s the same as we’ve had for 50 years and we’ve got to one semi-final,” Southgate said. “The opportunity is for us to go further than so many teams in the past and our European Championship record has been appalling. So this team has a chance to make a difference. They’ve got opportunity to really excite our country again. They know what that felt like two years ago from a slightly further distance and this time they get the chance to feel it, you know, really close up.”

England will base themselves at St George’s Park in Burton for the opening match against Croatia on 14 June in a fixture that will give Southgate’s side a chance to gain some revenge for their World Cup semi-final defeat in Moscow last year. Southgate suspects that could be a real advantage to his squad before they face the play-off winners on 19 June and the Czechs in their final group match on 23 June.

England will be based at St George’s Park.

England will be based at St George’s Park. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

“That’s a good thing because we’ve become really familiar with the surroundings,” he said. “We’re secure. We’ve got incredible facilities that we’re not having to go and search now for something and pair a hotel with a training ground, and find out the logistics of all of that. So there’s a lot more that you can control around the training in particular.

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“We’re very conscious that the energy and the environment is critical and while the players are used to being at St George’s we wouldn’t want to be anywhere for one whole block of time without the opportunity for people to come in or see their families. We’ve still got to nail all that now we know the fixtures. But we’re quite a way down the road with our plan.”

England will play Denmark at Wembley on 31 March, with the identity of their opponents for another friendly four days earlier to be announced soon. They will also play one home warm-up match and another away fixture in Europe as Southgate seeks to fine-tune his squad.

The unusual format of the tournament could see England play last-16 ties in Dublin, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Bilbao or Budapest depending on where they finish in the group, with a potential showdown against the runners-up from the so-called group of death should they come out on top. That could conceivably set up a rematch of the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany in Dublin, even if Southgate insisted he was not thinking about the past.

“It’s not a case of exorcising anything for me, if anything the [World Cup] penalty shootout against Colombia was that moment,” he said. “I am on to how we make this team as good as we can be, and be successful in the summer as a team and as a group. All I know from 96 is that it is going to be a brilliant atmosphere for those group matches and we have every incentive to progress as far as we can.”

With no match scheduled for the best part of four months, Southgate acknowledged the majority of selection problems are out of his hands for the time being. But as well as offering encouraging noises about a recall for Tottenham’s Dele Alli after three goals in two appearances for José Mourinho, he insisted the door also remains open to the Manchester City defender Kyle Walker despite the proliferation of options in that position.

“With Kyle, we’ve obviously got [Atlético Madrid’s] Kieran Trippier, who I was watching his game this morning against Juve,” he said. “I think he’s been playing very well. Trent Alexander-Arnold is obviously playing well but Kyle is right in that mix. Chelsea’s Reece James is also coming through and is another one that is pushing in that area of the pitch. So we have competition but it would be foolish to rule Kyle out.”


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