Gareth Southgate tells England squad: Give ‘new’ Wembley its icons with Euros semi-final win

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Gareth Southgate tells England squad: Give ‘new’ Wembley its icons with Euros semi-final win
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Gareth Southgate wants England to finally claim ‘new’ Wembley as their own tonight.

The Three Lions can secure a place in their first European Championship Final with victory against Denmark, and the players have been told this is their chance to indelibly stamp their name on the national stadium.

England’s finest moments like the World Cup triumph in 1966 and Paul Gascoigne’s wonder goal against Scotland at Euro 96 were all at the original Wembley. There have been precious few memorable moments since the rebuilt stadium was opened in 2007, with victory against Germany in the round-of-16 at these finals sure to go down as England’s greatest performance under the arch so far.

That would be topped by winning tonight’s semi-final and the chance to come back to Wembley on Sunday to face Italy for the trophy.

Manager Southgate said: “Wembley has a fantastic history, of course, but those of us old enough to remember the old stadium, a lot of those memories would be from the old stadium.

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

“The history of the stadium relies on those iconic moments and if we look historically that’s been in the past, World Cup Final, Olympics, big boxing events and there have been perhaps less of those headline events at the new Wembley.

“This tournament is now one of those moments where we’ve had the chance to have some very high-profile games already and achieve some big moments. There are some pictures on the wall as you drive into the dressing rooms of iconic England moments, but some of them aren’t even from finals competitions. David Beckham’s free-kick against Greece was a qualifier (at Old Trafford).

“Our players, over the last two tournaments, have been able to create some really special memories especially for youngsters. Bless them, they think it’s like this all the time with England. They’ve not had to live through what we’ve all lived through.”

Southgate wants Wembley to be a fortress and believes a crowd of 60,000 can help.

“I’ve not heard the new Wembley have an atmosphere like it did for the Germany game,” he said. “The Croatia Nations League game was a very good one in terms of the atmosphere, but Germany was another level and I’m sure this is going be very special.

“I don’t expect Denmark to come being fearful of Wembley. They’ve got experienced players and I think they’ll enjoy playing there, but we’ve got to make the game one that they don’t enjoy.”

Southgate is expected to start with a back four, with the main dilemma surrounding whether to recall the fit-again Bukayo Saka or stick with Jadon Sancho, who shone against Ukraine in Rome.

The manager believes that pair are evidence that back-to-back semi-finals are just the start of a successful period for the team, with Phil Foden and Mason Mount also set to be part of a bright future. But he has told his current crop to seize a moment that may never come again.

He said: “We believe this squad can get even stronger as they gain even more experience, but you can never determine how things are going to play out.

“English football, in terms of the young players being produced by our academies and the experiences they are having, the success of our junior teams, is breeding confidence and the young players that are here, it is great for them to experience the success of a run in a tournament.

“But, for this team, you never get the same group of players together again, so for this particular team this is their opportunity our opportunity and we want to make the most of that.”

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