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Joe Cole believes ‘the time is now’ as England head into Euro 2024

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 27 Mar 2024

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Joe Cole feels like “the time is now” as England head into this summer’s European Championship.

Gareth Southgate is preparing to take charge of his fourth and potentially last major tournament, having reached the World Cup semi-finals and quarter-finals as well as a continental final.

England’s agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 showpiece remains raw but has only increased the squad’s desire to go one better in Germany.

Cole believes those shared experiences are indicating this can be “a real positive summer”, with the former international excited by what Southgate’s side can achieve.

“Listen, they were penalty kicks away from winning a tournament,” the former England international told the PA news agency. “There’s been semi-finals, quarter-finals – the experience is there now.

“They have got young players in the squad, but they’re so experienced and so knowledgeable, as a team and as a group. You know, I think the time is now.

“The only difference going into this tournament is there’s a little bit more expectation on them and it’s how do they cope with that, but I think they’ve got the right manager for that.

“I think Gareth will manage the anxieties of the squad – of the team – and just keep them focused on the task in hand.

“I think Gareth is in the right place. Very, very good character in that situation. I think it actually sort of would benefit to have someone of his character there.”

Cole is well placed to analyse England’s chances having represented his country 56 times and worked as a pundit throughout the build-up to Euro 2024.

The retired creative midfielder is also a former international team-mate of Southgate, who he believes deserves more appreciation for the job he has done in charge of the men’s team.

“Factually, Gareth Southgate is the most successful England manager since Alf Ramsey,” Cole said.

“If you’re going to have a discussion with someone and anyone’s picking holes out of it, that is the facts.

“He’s taken the team deeper in tournaments than anyone and he’s just underappreciated. Underappreciated the job he’s done.”

Cole – who has signed up to play in Soccer Aid for UNICEF on June 9 – was in the same 2002 World Cup squad as Southgate and part of the last England side to play in a major tournament in Germany.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s much-hyped ‘Golden Generation’ bowed out in the quarter-final stage of the 2006 World Cup and Cole believes things are better for the national team this time around.

“It’s a different landscape,” Cole said. “We had different problems to deal with than this group of players.

“When you go into a tournament, you need moments to happen for you. Every tournament we played in, it was either a penalty shoot-out or it was a sending off or an injury.

“These big moments went against us, but ultimately I feel this group are better educated from a footballing perspective.

“I feel where we are in England – in terms of how we play football – is the right way now.

“I feel for many, many years, we weren’t playing in the right way tactically, so I think this group have been brought up under a different system. Underneath it all, I think ultimately they’re better equipped because of that.”

England continued their Euro 2024 preparations with Saturday’s late 1-0 loss to Brazil and even later Jude Bellingham goal in the 2-2 draw with Belgium three days later.

Southgate’s side have two further warm-up friendlies against Bosnia and Iceland in June, with the squad due to fly out to Germany the day after Cole pulls on an England shirt once again in Soccer Aid.

“It’s always nice to go back and play at Stamford Bridge,” he said of the June 9 clash against a World XI at former club Chelsea.

“It always surprises me how popular it is. The kids love it, people tune in, it’s a real family occasion.

“It’s great to be part of and it’s just one of them things that’s a win-win all round for everybody. We love doing it and most importantly it’s for a great cause.”

:: Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2024 takes place on June 9 at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, with tickets available at www.socceraid.org.uk/tickets

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