Gareth Southgate has told his players they must cope with the expectation of the Wembley crowd when England attempt to win Group D by beating the Czech Republic on Tuesday night.
England were booed off after their lacklustre goalless draw against Scotland last Friday, raising concerns that home advantage is not working in their favour at Euro 2020, but Southgate believes that it is up to his side to create a positive atmosphere by playing attractive football.
“We’re a professional sports team playing at a high level,” the manager said. “We have to expect there’s expectation, we have to expect there are demands on the team. It’s pointless complaining about that. We could be involved in some matches that nobody was bothered about watching and life would be a lot duller.
“We’re playing for England, we’re at Wembley, we’re in a major tournament and we’ve got to cope with that. We’ve got to produce the football that gives the crowd the excitement they want, the results they want.”
England take on the Czech Republic at Wembley to decide top spot in Group D, but both teams have already secured qualification for the last 16 thanks to Monday's Euro 2020 results elsewhere.
With Ukraine and Finland finishing third in their groups on three points, teams with four points on the board are now assured of reaching the knockout stages. This includes England, the Czechs, Group E leaders Sweden, Group F leaders France and Switzerland, who are guaranteed to finish as one of the best four third-placed teams.
The winner between Scotland and Croatia will qualify for the last 16, but both teams will be out in the event of a draw. Denmark have finished second in Group B and will play Wales in the last 16. Austria, the runners-up in Group C, will face Italy at Wembley.
Qualified for last 16: Italy*, Wales, Switzerland, Belgium*, Denmark, Netherlands*, Austria, England, Czech Republic, Sweden, France.
*Confirmed group winners
England, whose qualification for the last-16 was confirmed by results on Monday but will play their last-16 tie at Wembley if they overcome the Czechs, created few chances against Scotland and Southgate knows his inexperienced team must improve in the final third.
“I think it’s always important to play well with any team you’re involved in,” he said. “When you’ve had a disappointing performance you want to produce a better level of performance straight away. The players have got the desire to do that, I’ve got the desire to do that.
“We understand the spotlight and the attention and we know we’ve got to improve on the performances we gave the other night to progress in the tournament further. We’ve got to play better than we did and break down packed defences.”
Southgate added that playing in front of a restricted crowd at Wembley means the atmosphere has been less vibrant than during Euro 96. “What we don’t have is 80,000 people at Wembley and that means although we have got home advantage, it’s not home advantage like I experienced in 1996,” he said.
“The people in the stadium have been terrific in making an atmosphere, compared to what we’ve been watching for the last 10 months. It feels brilliant, but it’s not 90,000, it’s not what Budapest was the other day when I saw them all bouncing behind the goal. Yes, we have got home advantage but it’s a little restricted … for the intimidation for the opposition as much as the support for us.”