Gareth Southgate is relishing the prospect of going all the way at Euro 2020 and called on his England squad to stamp their names in the history of international football.
Southgate announced his 33-man provisional squad for the upcoming tournament – delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic – on Tuesday.
The England boss will have to cut that number to 26 by June 1, ahead of friendlies against Austria and Romania. The Three Lions start their Euro 2020 campaign in earnest on June 13, taking on Croatia.
With a wealth of talent at his disposal, albeit Southgate holds doubts over the fitness of the likes of Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish and Harry Maguire, the England boss is hoping for a long run in the tournament – the last three matches of which will be held at Wembley.
But, after a run to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup, Southgate knows his players have to step up and deliver in the crucial moments.
“It’s a great challenge for all of our players,” he told a news conference.
“We have some players that should be close to their prime and we have a lot of young players that everybody’s excited about and rightly so.
“These stages, big games, big moments are where you make your reputation, legacy and stamp your name on football history.
“That’s what’s so exciting for the players to be involved in, when you think about big players of the past, a lot of those moments are in an international shirt.
“That’s the opportunity they have now. To be big players we have to step up in those moments and if we want to be a successful team, we have to live with the pressure that comes with expectation.
“It’s exciting to lead a team into a European Championship that has an opportunity to bring the country out of the gloom of the last few months. To have fans back in the stadium has already been so exciting to see at the end of the league season and late stages of the cup ties, so we’re really looking forward to the whole experience.”
“We’ll have a lot more information in seven days and be able to make the best possible decisions that we can.”
— England (@England) May 25, 2021
Southgate has previously spoken out against naming larger squads, but he felt the uncertainties over the fitness of several players, along with the fact 11 of his provisional selection are involved in European finals this week, required the need for a 33-man pool to then trim down.
However, Southgate does share the concerns of Spain boss Luis Enrique, who on Monday named only a 24-man squad, leaving out stalwart Sergio Ramos.
“I’m still not a fan of 26. As Luis Enrique said, you want everybody to feel that they’re there and thereabouts,” he added.
“We could end up, if we’ve got everybody fit and available, with people not even on the bench, so that’s not a great team dynamic.
“But I think the risk of not taking 26, especially with injury doubts and we don’t know what will happen with COVID … so we felt that’s important.
“I think Luis has gone smaller partly for the harmony of the group, but he’s also got the backup knowing the under-21s are in their European finals and if they have any issues in the first 10 days or so, I’d expect he’d be able to call in some very good quality players from that group.
“I don’t know all of his thinking but I suspect that’s a good fallback, whereas with us we’d be calling players off the beach after a fortnight and that won’t work, really, so everybody’s going to approach that differently. Everybody’s circumstances are a bit different.”
Southgate also confirmed that the players of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City would be handed extra time off after their respective Europa League and Champions League showdowns.
“We’ll give them a period of rest after the finals. That’s exactly how we approached it ahead of [the World Cup in] Russia, we had Henderson and Trent [Alexander-Arnold] come in late for that,” Southgate said.
“To have a break with their families was their preference and we think that is invaluable time given our aim is to be here for nine games, including the friendlies, and from the start of the tournament onwards there’s a fair chance we won’t be able to see families.
“Those players will report later. It’s probably not going to be exactly a week, but it’ll be five or six days depending on the games and when they’re due to report.”
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