Gareth Southgate wants England to keep their ‘edge’ in Rome

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Gareth Southgate has been delighted to receive messages of support in recent days but is keen for England to keep their “edge” as they prepare for their Euro 2020 quarter-final against Ukraine in Rome.

The Three Lions travel to Italy looking to earn a place in the semi-finals, which will be held back at Wembley – with the final also played under the arch on July 11.

A 2-0 win over old foes Germany on Tuesday evening set up the clash with Ukraine and earned Southgate and his players plenty of plaudits.

While the England boss is happy to hear from former team-mates and ex-internationals, he is keen for focus to remain on a quarter-final tie he anticipates to be a tougher test than many have suggested.

“There are some people who I have got huge respect for and I’ve had some nice messages from a couple of former internationals and people I hold in really high regard,” he told the Official England Podcast.

“The job is to create a team that the nation can relate to and create memories that last forever and we did that against Germany, the opening game was a great occasion against Croatia.

“The Scotland game is always a big occasion and I know the game didn’t fulfil what we would have hoped but it was a crucial part to us qualifying.

“But it’s Saturday now for us, the messages are great, the congratulations are great but they’re also dangerous because it can take an edge from you and we’ve got to get that edge in our feeling now to get back into performance state before Germany.”

Southgate insists his England will be well-prepared for the challenge of Ukraine, who beat Sweden with a last-gasp goal at the end of extra-time to advance, even if their squad is not as well known as the Germany side seen off last time out.

“I said to the players this morning this is now a fantastic challenge for us,” he said of playing their first Euro 2020 fixture away from home.

“We’ve got to go away from Wembley, potentially quite a hot climate, hardly any England fans in the stadium, maybe not a particularly big crowd full stop in the stadium.

Ukraine manager Andriy Shevchenko led his nation to victory over Sweden in the last-16.
Ukraine manager Andriy Shevchenko led his nation to victory over Sweden in the last-16. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“We have watched Ukraine over last year or so now but of course not as many of their players are playing in the Bundesliga or Premier League, although a couple of them are.

“Then there is this perception that now all we’ve got to do is turn up and we’re on our way.

“So we are just very clear, (we need) total focus on Saturday. We need to prepare for the game in the right way and the mentality is critical.”

Viewing figures for England’s opening four games have broken records as the nation continues to ease out of lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic.

Southgate has always taken seriously the role the England team can play in lifting spirits and believes that has once again been the case so far this summer.

England fans have once again been out in numbers supporting Southgate and his players.
England fans have once again been out in numbers supporting Southgate and his players. (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“Of course this has been a remarkable 18 months for everybody the world over but closer to home you know the issues people have faced.

“Whether that has been kids who’ve not been able to get the schooling they need, people who have lost jobs, more seriously people who have lost loved ones and suffered.

“So to bring that happiness and know as many people were watching on an early Sunday evening (against Croatia), when a lot of people are together, that is very special and I couldn’t be prouder of the way the players went about the job.”

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