Gareth Southgate: England have chance to do something really special

Gareth Southgate swiftly put England’s historic victory against Germany to bed and re-focused on the huge Euro 2020 quarter-final with Ukraine as they look to take this “chance to​ do something really special”.

The Three Lions’ biggest match on home soil in a quarter of a century provided an unforgettable evening for the 41,973 at Wembley and millions watching at home.

Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane were the goalscoring heroes under the arch as England beat Germany in a major tournament knockout match for the first time since the 1966 World Cup final.

The Euro 2020 draw
(PA Graphics)

Tuesday’s 2-0 last-16 triumph will go down in folklore, but Southgate knows it will count for little if England do not secure a Wembley return by beating Ukraine in Saturday’s last-eight clash at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

“I’m just thinking about Saturday, really,” the England manager said.

“It was lovely to be on the side. To see the second goal go in was a really special moment.

England celebrate Raheem Sterling's opener against Germany
England beat Germany at Wembley on Tuesday night (Nick Potts/PA)

“But we’ve not achieved what we want to achieve yet. We can look back on a day like today in the future, but I want to get Saturday right and get my focus on that game, really.”

Southgate brushed aside any suggestion of redemption on Tuesday, having missed the key spot-kick in the Euro 96 semi-final shootout loss to Germany.

The 50-year-old and his squad have stayed focused on the fixture rather the brouhaha surrounding the historic rivalry, with England sure to retain that steely mindset heading to Italy.

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“I know what we’ve set out to achieve and today of course is a big result,” said Southgate, who is looking to get England through to the Wembley semi-finals and final.

“England have never managed to beat Germany in a knockout game since the final here and I think we haven’t put together in a tournament a semi-final followed by a quarter-final since 1966 either.

“These players keep writing history and they’ve got the chance again. We’ve only ever been to one European Championship semi-final so, again, they’ve got the chance to do something really special and we’ve got to make sure we give ourselves the very best chance of doing that.”

Southgate warned that this is a “dangerous moment” given the warmth of success and rising expectations, especially with England in the easier looking half of the draw.

They also have a change to deal with as they head on the road for the first time during this multi-host European Championship after playing all four matches in front of a partisan Wembley crowd.

“Of course now we’ve got to go to Rome, away from our own fans,” Southgate added.

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“A different sort of experience for us and we’ve got to be ready for all of those challenges and changes. The preparation time is of course really short, so much less time on the training pitch.

“I mean, we were able to work unusually in as much depth this week as we were because we don’t normally get that time with the players.

“That’s going to be a quicker turnaround. It’s going to be about recovery, it’s going to be about making sure psychologically we’re back in the right place.

“This is where the squad have been so good to be understanding of the changes. The players that haven’t played as much as they would have hoped have been immense.

“I’ve got to say it’s a really difficult role and they’ve done it brilliantly. We said to them yesterday ‘look, we’re talking two more weeks to be a part of something really special’ and they’re all in on that.

“But it doesn’t make it any easier. You go training in the morning and that’s a hard session for that group that haven’t played. I’ve done it so I know how that feels.

“But without their mentality and without the way they’ve been and their contribution when they’ve come into the game as subs, then we wouldn’t be in a quarter-final now.”