Southgate’s tournament play epiphany has him looking towards history making

July 7 – England manager Gareth Southgate hailed the resilience of his ‘streetwise’ team in their penalty shout-out quarter-final win against Switzerland after falling behind.

The Three Lions rallied to eliminate Murat Yakin’s Switzerland when Bukayo Saka’s 80th minute goal cancelled out Breel Embolo’s 75th minute strike. They reached the last four of a major finals for the third time out of four during Southgate’s eight-year tenure.

England are just 90 minutes and a victory against the Dutch in Dortmund on Wednesday away from the final in Berlin where France or Spain would await. Yet, even against Switzerland, England were reluctant to attack and maximise the talent at their disposal.

“We weren’t savvy, we weren’t tournament-wise (in the past),” said Southgate. “The games that we’ve ultimately gone out (of tournaments), people can always look back and highlight things. But in general, we’ve shown the resilience that the teams that win tournaments have had for years and years. Italy, France, Spain. It’s not all pure football. It’s other attributes that they’ve had, and we’re showing a little bit more of that streetwise nature.”

“This is a young team that a lot of them are going to be around for a long time. We want to deliver, you know, one more thing.

“We’ve never been to a final outside of England. We’ve never won a Euros. So there’s there’s two bits of history we’d love to create.”

Southgate admitted that the recent criticism did not leave him unaffected. England have just won one match in regulation time this tournament and the manager’s cautious approach has infuriated the media and fans.

“Our intention is always to play well with the ball,” said Southgate when told that England were not easy on the eye.

“These are not normal football matches – these are national events. Our team has been under enormous pressure from the start. None of this stuff is easy. It’s not where we want it to end.”

“I can’t deny that when it’s as personal as it’s been in the last few weeks, on a human level it’s quite difficult, but we’re fighting. We’re not going to stop fighting.”

Saka was at the heart of England’s battle with the Swiss and once again one of the team’s marquee players rose to the occasion.

Against Slovakia, Jude Bellingham’s bicycle kick sprung England to life. This time, it was the Arsenal player, a menace to the Swiss throughout the evening, who equalised with a classic curler and converted his spot kick in the penalty shootout.

Three years ago, the youngster missed the decisive penalty against Italy in the Euro 2020 final, but his manager had nothing but praise.

“He is a special boy, he is a dream to work with. Wonderful family,” explained Southgate. “And of course, you’re pleased for everybody. But for him, especially when it went in. That takes courage. He’s now got a lot more experience with those pressure moments. And his all-round performance was exceptional.”

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