England ready to step up a gear in Euro 2024 knockouts, says Southgate

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a> coach Gareth Southgate will take charge of his 99th international against Slovakia on Sunday (Adrian DENNIS)
England coach Gareth Southgate will take charge of his 99th international against Slovakia on Sunday (Adrian DENNIS)

England manager Gareth Southgate is confident his side will embrace the pressure of the knockout stages at Euro 2024 after failing to fire in their three group games.

The Three Lions face Slovakia in the last 16 on Sunday with expectation even further ramped up as they find themselves on what is perceived to be the easier side of the draw.

England topped Group C despite underwhelming displays from one of the pre-tournament favourites as they beat Serbia 1-0 and drew with Denmark and Slovenia.

But Southgate's side have put disappointing performances in the group stage behind them before when reaching the Euro 2020 final and semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

"Now you're into that world of it has to happen on the day, you've got to go for it. We've been here before, many times, we know what it entails," said Southgate at his pre-match press conference.

"The fact is you go into a different mental state. Everybody knows that knockout football is jeopardy.

"Everybody knows that on a given day an opponent can make it really tough for you. You know the quality of the opposition left is high, so it changes the mindset.

"It's about how far can we go. We're trying to achieve something exceptional, but it's a step at a time and tomorrow is a chance to improve aspects of our game."

Southgate's future appears in doubt no matter the outcome in Germany.

Despite reaching a final, semi-final and quarter-final in his three major tournaments in charge, the former Middlesbrough boss still has plenty of critics back home.

He was pelted by beer cups thrown from the stands as some fans voiced their frustrations following a 0-0 draw against Slovenia on Tuesday.

Southgate, whose contract is set to expire at the end of the year, will manage England for the 99th time against Slovakia.

But he played down the importance of his future and potentially reaching a century of games in charge should England progress to a quarter-final against Switzerland.

"I'm just desperate to do well for my country. Lead this group of players and staff, who I absolutely love working with and think so much of," added Southgate.

"Lead them through what could be another brilliant night and create some more memories for our supporters."

- Kane 'enjoys' the big stage -

Harry Kane netted one of England's two goals so far against Denmark, but that is the only time in his last three international tournaments that he has scored in the group stage.

By contrast, the England captain has six goals in his last six knockout games and is confident he will grow into the tournament again.

"Naturally you get physically stronger, naturally you get sharper as you play more games," said Kane.

"A lot of the players come into their peak sharpness at the knockout stage and that's what I've found in, especially, recent tournaments as well.

"Ultimately I enjoy these games. Knockout football is a different prospect to the group stage. We've done well in the past and now it's time to do that again."

England have a clean bill of health but Luke Shaw is not fit to start as he has not played a minute for club or country since February.

Kobbie Mainoo is expected to replace Conor Gallagher in midfield, while wingers Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer are in contention to start should Southgate shuffle his misfiring frontline.