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England now dreaming of Euros history, not fearing failure: Southgate

England manager Gareth Southgate said expectation to win Euro 2024 weighed heavy on his players early in the tournament (INA FASSBENDER)
England manager Gareth Southgate said expectation to win Euro 2024 weighed heavy on his players early in the tournament (INA FASSBENDER)

England manager Gareth Southgate believes his side have been freed up by edging closer to a first ever major final on foreign soil at Euro 2024 after struggling to deal with the weight of expectation earlier in the tournament.

The Three Lions arrived in Germany as one of the favourites thanks to a richly-talented squad and an upturn in their fortunes under Southgate.

England are into a third semi-final in four tournaments, where they will face the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday.

But they have never reached a final outside of England or won the European Championship before.

Southgate's men have been heavily criticised for their performances at Euro 2024, where they have won only one of their five games in 90 minutes.

But he said his players showed signs of what they are capable of in a quarter-final win over Switzerland on penalties after needing a late Bukayo Saka equaliser to send the game to extra time.

"One of our strengths over the last eight years has been less fear, less inhibition but at the beginning the expectation weighed heavily," said Southgate at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

"We couldn't quite get ourselves in the right place and in the end what was impressive was the players ground results out.

"Now we are into that moment in the tournament where it is what is possible? What is achievable? Rather than, what could go wrong?

"That is different for a player. This is now the chance to make history, first time to make a final not held in England.

"We are trying to break new ground and that is difficult, but the players have responded brilliantly."

England's only previous European Championship final was three years ago when they missed out agonisingly on penalties to Italy at Wembley.

Harry Kane has been captain for almost the entirety of the Southgate era in charge and believes his side can lean on that experience against a Dutch side in their first Euros semi-final since 2004.

"We've got a lot of players who have experienced big games at international and club level," said Bayern Munich striker Kane.

"You use that experience over the course of your career to prepare the best way possible to control nerves and excitement tomorrow night will be not different.

"We had a goal, a target of what we think it is achievable and step-by-step we've been getting closer to that target.

"We've got ourselves in a great spot and we've got a big game to reach back-to-back finals in the European Championships which would be an amazing achievement."

Southgate has all of his 26-man squad available with Luke Shaw pushing for his first start of the tournament.

The Manchester United left-back made his first appearance for club or country since February as a substitute against the Swiss.

Marc Guehi looks set to return from suspension in place of Ezri Konsa, but Southgate looks set to stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation he used in the quarter-final.

kca/jc