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Southgate eyes Euro 2020 semis as a barometer of success

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Soccer Football – World Cup Qualifiers Europe – Group I – England v Poland – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – March 31, 2021 England manager Gareth Southgate reacts Pool via REUTERS/Andy Rain

Having reached two semi-finals during his tenure England manager Gareth Southgate says he and the team will have failed if they miss out on the last four of Euro 2020.

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Southgate’s side defied expectations to reach the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.

They have been drawn with Croatia, who beat them in the semi-finals of the World Cup, the Czech Republic and old rivals Scotland.

They will have home advantage in playing all their group games at Wembley.

“Yeah, it probably will,” said Southgate when asked whether falling short of the last four would be a failure.

“I think we’re realistic about that, we have to live with that expectation.

“Are we ready to win? Well, we’ve been to two semi-finals so the next step is to try to go further.”

Southgate — whose missed spot kick in the Euro 96 semi-final penalty shootout proved decisive against eventual champions Germany — said it pleased him there was such a buzz in the country surrounding the team.

“We know the excitement around the team and it’s great, we’re now relevant,” said Southgate.

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‘He is phenomenal’
Southgate included key players Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson in his 26-man squad despite both still recovering from injuries.

He admitted both face a battle to be fit for the opening group game against Croatia on June 13 but their presence in a young squad was a bonus.

With an average age of 25 years and three months, England will go into the tournament with one of the youngest squads.

“We know exactly where he is at,” Southgate said regarding Maguire’s availability.

“Our medical team have been with him in Manchester and he hasn’t travelled to join up with us.

“Maguire and Henderson both have a bit to do to be available but the possibility is that they can play a part and the fact is that they are such fantastic characters to have around the group.

“Henderson, with his leadership and presence, is having an effect on other people, especially the younger ones.

“Given we were able to pick 26, the opportunity to have those two with us was a straightforward one.”

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One of those youngsters that could benefit from the advice of 30-year-old Henderson and Maguire, 28, is 17-year-old Jude Bellingham.

The twice-capped Borussia Dortmund midfielder will be the second-youngest England player to go to a major tournament after Theo Walcott in 2006.

“He (Bellingham) is phenomenal,” said Southgate.

“Just in training in the last couple of days, to have a 17-year-old who wants to compete with senior players, not only has the techniques but the competitiveness and maturity, he is a hugely exciting player.

“He will be an important player for England, we are not just taking him for the experience, that will be enormous for him and future England managers because I don’t see with him anything in his character that means he won’t succeed.”

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