Gareth Southgate convinced England are growing into Euros as Germany last-16 showdown looms

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·3-min read
Gareth Southgate convinced England are growing into Euros as Germany last-16 showdown looms
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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Gareth Southgate believes England are ready to come good — just in time for their mouth-watering showdown with Germany.

The Three Lions will face their old rivals at Wembley on Tuesday after Wednesday night’s dramatic conclusion to the group stages of the Euros.

Germany were at risk of crashing out of the tournament before Leon Goretzka’s late equaliser earned a 2-2 draw with Hungary and a place in the last 16.

They will face an England side that have also been far from convincing, despite topping Group D without conceding a goal.

Southgate admits his team have failed to hit the heights so far, but is convinced they will grow into the tournament after a disrupted build-up to the finals.

The involvement of three English teams in the Champions League and Europa League finals robbed him of valuable preparation time with several key players, while injuries to Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Jack Grealish have also impacted his plans.

He was encouraged, however, by the 1-0 win over the Czech Republic on Tuesday, which featured that trio, and believes England will get better as their campaign goes on.

“We knew that because of the nature of our preparation, to get 10 of the players so late and not be able to get them into the friendly, and then have Maguire not available, Henderson in the early stages of rehab, Jack having only played the last couple of games of the season and still having to miss training, one or two others with small issues, we have known the team was going to have to evolve,” said the England manager.

“There are a lot of players who are lacking a bit of match sharpness and match fitness, and I am not sure there is a way round that. It’s why the squad is going to be so important, because we are going to have to bring fresh legs into the games.

“We have not been able to put that intensity of performance together, but what we have done well is manage the games, see them out and look really solid. In doing that, we have to find different ways to win.”

The loss of Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, who are having to self-isolate and train individually as a Covid precaution, is a further disruption, although England are in discussions with Public Health England to see if the pair can take part in socially-distanced training that would boost Mount’s chances of being involved against Germany.

In his absence, a forward line of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka and Grealish looked impressive in spells against the Czechs, and Southgate believes his side are finding their fluidity up front.

“It’s a strange one, because we have so many good attacking players,” he said. “There were moments against the Czech Republic when I thought it was definitely a bit more cohesive and it’s important that we get the ball into them a bit quicker at times as well. In the first half, we managed to do that.

“Maguire’s pass for Kane’s chance was fabulous. That’s the type of thing we have to do a little bit more.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

England will play the winner of Sweden and Ukraine in the quarter-finals if they beat Germany. There is then the potential of a semi-final against Wales or the Netherlands if either reach the last four.

Meanwhile, Southgate has praised Jordan Pickford’s performances so far, with England’s No1 still to be beaten.

“He’s been excellent,” Southgate said. “The last couple of months, his performances for his club have been very calm. He has been decisive at the right moments for us and has made good decisions with the ball at his feet.

“He’s in a really good place and he’s given us a really solid start point for what has been strong defence from the whole team.”

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