London: Gareth Southgate has warned his England players not to rest on their laurels as they aim to reach the Euro 2020 semi-finals with a win over Ukraine tonight.
Southgate’s side are overwhelmingly favorites to advance to the quarter-finals in Rome, but the England manager is keen to avoid a loss of focus following the emotional peak of Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to former German rivals.
England’s victory at an ecstatic Wembley was their first over the Germans in the knockout stage of a major tournament in 55 years, ending decades of angst against the team.
The triumph gave England a golden opportunity to win their first senior international trophy since the 1966 World Cup, with Ukraine underdogs blocking a semi-final at Wembley against either Denmark or the Czech Republic.
“From the final whistle the other day, the players were already talking about and preparing for the next game,” Southgate told reporters.
“They recognized that while they loved the experience of the last game, you are moving quickly through the tournaments and we are not where we want to be yet. It was not too difficult to refocus people. The opportunity is there, the confidence is there. They can’t wait to take on the challenge. “
After being hailed as a hero by 40,000 jubilant English fans on Tuesday, the Southgate team will experience a more subdued atmosphere in Rome.
Only expats based in Italy will be able to support England in the stadium as coronavirus restrictions have prevented the Football Association from selling tickets to fans in Britain.
But Southgate thinks it could be a good thing as a quieter environment could keep their players on an even level with emotion.
“It’s good to be leaving Wembley now. It would have been difficult to reproduce the atmosphere we had the other day three days later. Having a different focus, a different environment is good for us, ”he said.
“It will be more like the crowds we had for the first three group matches, but with fewer English fans. Our players are used to playing Premier League games all season long without any fans.
“It doesn’t matter too much to us. You need good leaders in this situation and we have plenty of them. “
One of the concerns regarding England’s trip to Italy – their first game away from Wembley in the tournament – is the potentially stifling heat.
“Although we’re not right in the middle, the heat will be a factor by the end of the game I think,” Southgate said.
Southgate is embarrassed for wealth in the attacking zones as he considers his side to face Ukraine.
Raheem Sterling has scored three of England’s four goals, while Jack Grealish played a key role in Germany’s victory after coming off the bench.
Southgate has revealed that an injury to Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka – who started against Germany before being replaced by Grealish – is his only fitness issue heading into the quarter-final.
“We have to check on Bukayo he had a slight hit today but other than that everyone is available,” Southgate said.
“We just had such a range of offensive talent. It is impossible to satisfy everyone. Raheem was on fire, his goals made it harder for others to enter from the left side they prefer. “
Southgate has also denied claims he could rest Phil Foden, Harry Maguire, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips to prevent them from winning a booking that would exclude them from the semi-finals.
“I can’t think of a country in the world that would do that, especially not a country that has only participated in three semi-finals in its history,” he said.
“We won’t make any decisions based on yellow cards. It would be a big mistake and an insult to Ukraine. “
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian team will have to play their “game of a lifetime” by entering uncharted territory, defender Oleksandr Zinchenko said.
Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine, the only third team to advance to the group stage with three points, won 2-1 in overtime against Sweden to reach their first Euro quarter-final.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves. The fact that England have yet to concede shows that they have been solid at the back, ”Zinchenko said at a press conference.
“Walker and Stones have had incredible seasons with City. It won’t be easy to overtake them. But at this point in the tournament anything is possible. We realize that to come out of this, all players will have to play the best game ever. their life. “