Gareth Southgate plans on playing a patient possession game against Andriy Shevchenko’s team
Gareth Southgate has railed against the perception of England simply turning up in Rome to book a place in the final week of the Euros.
The England manager is wary of the euphoria after beating Germany taking away his players’ edge when they face Ukraine at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
Southgate also plans on playing a patient possession game against Andriy Shevchenko’s team to avoid tiring in the hot temperatures expected in the Italian capital over the weekend.
“There is a perception that all we have to do is turn up and we’re on our way. We have to prepare the game in the right way and our mentality is critical,” said Southgate.
“The messages and congratulations are great but they are also dangerous as they can take an edge from you and we’ve got to have that edge to get ourselves in that performance state that we were against Germany.
“I said to the players on Wednesday, this is now a fantastic challenge for us. We have to go away from Wembley, potentially a hot climate with hardly any England fans in the stadium – maybe not a big crowd full-stop – and an opponent where we have to learn a lot quickly compared to Germany where the players knew individually their direct attributes.”
Southgate says his team will keep playing patiently from the back rather than rushing forward and tiring themselves, which has led to supporters voicing their frustration during the group stage when they twice won 1-0 and also failed to score against Scotland.
“We are looking very deeply at tactical things and sometimes that will frustrate supporters,” he said. “I know when the team doesn’t play forward, that we’re trying to be a team with that patience to retain the ball.
“I played for years with England when we kept giving the ball away and had to chase in the heat. It was a big problem. The players showed great resilience to be mature enough to block out those groans when you don’t go forward and to be brave enough to pick those moments. Giving yourself a breather defensively is very important.”
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Southgate, speaking on The Official England Podcast, says the crowd at Wembley is a huge factor should they make it past Ukraine. He revealed he could hear the noise of spectators from the dressing room as players warmed up.
He also discussed the coach journey back from Wembley to their base at St George’s Park in Staffordshire, with staff in a separate vehicle to players and singing along to Sweet Caroline as they travelled. It was a brief moment of relaxation, with Southgate describing the tournament as being “in the battle zone” for every minute.
Players who did not feature against Germany trained the morning after the game and Southgate has been impressed with the team spirit among those who have not made the starting line-up.
“These are highly trained competitive animals, the players are racehorse thoroughbreds and that isn’t an easy dynamic,” he said. “By nature they are used to playing and it is very difficult to get to the end of the week and not have the game you want and in some instances not have any minutes. So it is huge credit to them as a group and the respect they have for each other.”