England manager Gareth Southgate has urged his players to seize the moment and deliver a performance that will live long in the memory when they meet Germany in the last 16 of Euro 2020.
Southgate has called on his squad to write their own stories in the build-up to Tuesday’s match – the same message he gave on the eve of England’s last-16 penalty shoot-out win against Colombia on their way to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.
Wembley will host around 40,000 fans in what is England’s biggest match on home soil since their defeat to Germany at Euro 96.
“Every time you pull on an England shirt you have the opportunity to score a goal that will be shown forever and to create a bit of skill or to be involved in a match that lives in the memory, and that is the beauty of playing for your country,” Southgate said.
“If you think of all the big players in history, of course in European club football there are significant memories, but when you picture those great players it is normally in an international shirt that their biggest memories are formed.
“That is the case every time you pull on an England shirt, so it is an opportunity few lads get. These lads have earned it and I am sure they are going to relish that.”
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England will be looking to win only their second knockout game at a European Championship.
“It’s an incredible record really,” Southgate said.
“Something we have spoken about over the last four years is that this team doesn’t carry the baggage from previous eras, many of them weren’t even born when many of those things happened and it is an irrelevance for them.
“It’s a real opportunity to progress to a quarter-final, albeit against a team with pedigree and experience, but it is a game we are looking forward to.
“As a team we’ve looked very strong defensively, which in tournaments is an important factor. There’s no hiding from that.
“Of course, we want to be a bit more fluid and we haven’t been able to achieve that yet, but I think probably most teams in the tournament are feeling the same way about that.”
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Southgate said he would make a late call on whether or not to pick Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell as they prepare to rejoin the group.
The duo will complete the final hours of their period of self-isolation on Monday evening, having come into contact with Chelsea team-mate Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus last week, and have been unable to take part in full training sessions with the rest of the England squad.
Asked if it was realistic for the pair to be available against Germany, Southgate replied: “Clearly it is really complicated because there is the physical periodisation that you would want for a game like this and there is the tactical training.
“In the meetings we have had, they have had to be in a separate room and dial in on Zoom so the whole experience for them, including traveling down tonight is very difficult, but they are young players who can get on with things pretty well.
“It is a decision I have got to take when we are looking at how they have been able to train and everything else. There is a lot wrapped up in that call.”
England are yet to concede a goal at Euro 2020, while Germany required a late equaliser against Hungary in their final group-stage game to reach the knockout stages.
Despite this, Southgate is braced for a tough game against “a big opponent with excellent pedigree and great experience”.
“Although I keep reading lots of negative comments about them, I see a team that’s well-prepared, tactically know what they’re doing, that work together, so we know it’s a really, really tough game for us,” he said.
“They’ve been in an incredibly tough qualifying group and the quality of the matches and the standard of the opponent has been really high, so that will have prepared them for big matches straight away.
“They also have huge big-match experience: four World Cup winners, numerable Champions League winners, so they’re a very accomplished team.”
Kane: I don’t care if I don’t score, as long as England win
England’s last knockout game at a European Championship saw them defeated by Iceland in the last 16 and captain Harry Kane says lessons have been learnt.
“There’s only a few of us left that were involved in that tournament, and that game in particular,” he said.
“Sometimes games like that give you more motivation to go and be successful in the future.
“You learn from experiences like that, I did for sure, and the players did for sure.”
Kane won the Golden Boot at the World Cup three years ago but has yet to score in this tournament.
Asked if he takes notice of any discussion around his form, the Tottenham player replied: “As a striker you go through good spells and spells that don’t go your way.
“But we are winning games and that is the most important thing. However we do it, the objective is to get through and that is what we did in the group and that will be the aim again.”
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