Expectation has weighed heavily - Southgate

6 days ago 19

England boss Gareth Southgate admits "the noise had never been louder" at the start of Euro 2024 but says his side are now ready to make "history" as they prepare for a semi-final against the Netherlands.

Southgate said his team - who won one and drew two of their group stage games before narrowly beating Slovakia and then edging past Switzerland on penalties in the knock-outs - "couldn't quite get ourselves in the right place".

"One of our strengths over the years has been having less fear, showing less inhibition," he said.

"But at the beginning of the tournament the expectation weighed heavily and the noise from outside had never been louder."

Captain Harry Kane said the team "use past experiences to help" when they approach "tough" games like Wednesday's semi-final (20:00 BST).

"I just think during the game you lean on experience, the leaders who have been there and done that," Kane said. "Ultimately it's about going out there and taking the opportunity with both hands.

"Reaching back-to-back European Championship finals would be an amazing achievement and we have the opportunity to go and do that."

The winners of Wednesday's semi-final will play Spain on Sunday after their 2-1 win over France on Tuesday.

England were beaten by Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final, reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup.

While Kane conceded that "as we've been getting better the expectation gets higher", he said the added pressure can sometimes give players a boost.

He added: "Some will use it in different ways, some will use it as motivation, some will just block it out and focus on what they need to do. Everyone's different.

"From a team point of view we know what we need to achieve. We have a really important game, a really tough game we need to be ready for. We've prepared for that."

The Netherlands' arrival to Dortmund was "significantly delayed" after their train was cancelled and they had to fly from Wolfsburg, with their pre-match news conference being cancelled.

Southgate has often left it until late into games to make substitutions - apart from some made at half-time - but he said changes are "not pre-conditioned" and depend on the game.

"You are always looking at the freshness of the team and the balance of the team and whether changes are going to make an improvement to the team or not," he said.

"The game will take us in a certain direction that will make that decision for us."

Defender Luke Shaw made his first appearance from the bench in the win against Switzerland after returning from injury, but Southgate did not shed any more light on whether he will start Wednesday's game.

The manager said they "have to decide" if Shaw, who had been injured for four months, is "ready to start".

Southgate also dismissed concerns over a German referee once criticised over his match-fixing past by Jude Bellingham officiating the game.

Bellingham, then playing for Borussia Dortmund, was fined 40,000 euros (£34,000) in 2021 for referencing Felix Zwayer's previous six-month ban for match fixing.

Southgate added: "I have no concerns about who the referee is, he will be at a very high standard because that is how Uefa make those decisions. It's not even a consideration."

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