Gareth Southgate has described the overwhelming sense of pride he feels in leading England to the first major men’s final since 1966, as he vowed to enjoy the wonderful opportunity ahead.
England face Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday, after beating Denmark 2-1 after extra time in Wednesday’s semi-final, a victory largely due to the management of street play and the psychological freshness of the team.
Southgate routinely deflects questions that try to paint him at the center of the story, but allowed his emotions to show after Denmark’s game when he clenched his fists and yelled at the England supporters behind one of Wembley’s goals, as he had. made after the victory in the round of 16 penalty shootout over Colombia in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“To be able to hear Wembley as it was and to know what that would have been like across the country is an honor,” said Southgate. “Because we are a special country, historically we are an incredible country and I know that I could not be more proud to be English. I couldn’t be more proud to have the opportunity to lead my country, so bringing happiness in this difficult time is a very special feeling.
“I’m not ashamed to lose my mind a little at that time [after the match]. Once you leave the court you know that you are preparing for the next game and everything that goes into being able to have that moment on the court with the fans is always the most special part for me ”.
England offered the latest example of how they have progressed since the last World Cup when they closed the second period of overtime, prioritizing retention of possession, albeit with Denmark reduced to 10 men through injury. Southgate, who traded offensive-minded backup Jack Grealish for winger Kieran Trippier, from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3, had seen his team lose 2-1 to Croatia in the World Cup. . semifinal, having led 1-0.
“The players have learned a lot in the last three or four years, we talked to them about that. [running down the clock]Southgate said. “We used to talk to those under 21 about it, it was one of the most important areas that we had to improve in, and we can still do better. But the players had solved it and they did it really well. We have the technicians to be able to do it ”.
In the tournament failures that have passed, the physical strain of grueling Premier League seasons has been cited as an excuse, but England were full of runs against Denmark. Southgate noted that he and his staff “can’t physically improve the players, so we don’t train too much and we keep that cool.” But they’ve worked hard to mentally stimulate them, with all manner of distractions in downtime, for example, at their St George’s Park headquarters, from a golf simulator to the pool with inflatable unicorns.
“We felt that the environment we wanted to create had to be one that refreshed the players, allowed them to enjoy their downtime, gave them some freedom,” Southgate said. “You can talk about fatigue, you can talk about the season, but doing the right physical training and getting the right psychological freshness is key to creating the energy you need.”
Italy beat Spain on penalties in their Wembley semi-final on Tuesday, meaning they have had an additional 24 hours to prepare. “It’s definitely a disadvantage, but we have to find the best way to deal with it,” Southgate said. “Italy’s record is phenomenal: 10 finals. We have a great task ahead of us, but one that we will take on with enthusiasm.
“What Roberto [Mancini] he has done it and the way Italy has played in recent years … speaks for itself in terms of wins, the small number of goals conceded. The style of play has been exceptional.
“Getting to a semi-final in Russia was probably ahead of what we expected. To reach a final now, it’s hard to say. That was our goal, for sure. You’re never sure how things will play out when we had so many problems to deal with in the beginning. But we are there and now we have a wonderful opportunity ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism