Gareth Southgate insisted England’s last-16 showdown with Germany
Gareth Southgate says England’s players have a chance to “create a moment that lives with people forever”, which is why the grand rematch with Germany has nothing to do with the past or his own penalty miss.
The manager was naturally pressed on that moment in Euro 96, but insisted on looking to the inspirational rather than anything negative, as he stressed it wasn’t about him.
“These sorts of landmarks are always opportunities,” Southgate said on the eve of England’s biggest home game in 25 years. “Every time you play for England you have an opportunity to score a goal or create a moment that lives with people forever. That is to be cherished, really. That is what presents itself.”
It was another reason Southgate moved the pre-game discussion beyond his own past, as he stressed much of the history is irrelevant to the modern players.
“Look, I totally understand why everybody asks the question so no issue with that… I can’t win this game. It will be the players who win it. It’s important the focus is on them. The opportunity is theirs. What happened to me has helped in many different areas of my life but it’s of no importance to this group of players and really every time you play an opponent it’s about two sets of players on any given day. It’s about how well they prepared and how well they perform. All those barriers are there to be knocked down in life and that’s the mentality we have got to have.
“Well, I always want to win matches, give the country excitement, enjoyment, and a warm feeling when they go to work the next morning, that’s the opportunity we’re blessed with.
I can’t give closer on what’s happened in the past, because, as I’ve said before, I can’t give closure to the teammates I’ve played with, OK, I’ve got an opportunity of doing something now, but the teammates I’ve played with are the ones I think about the most for that fixture. So, I can’t do that, that’s something I have to accept. I wouldn’t want to claim I can heal everything for everybody else, because that just wouldn’t be the case.”
Southgate said he and his staff have been working on the specific psychological challenges that knockout games provide. He pointed to how this has let England down in key games in the past.
“There are different challenges as we’ve seen within the last 48 hours. How you recover from a setback with a freak goal, how you recover from a red card, you’ve got to ride those moments and make sure as a team you react well to those moments. We will have moments to win this tournament where things are going to go against us and we are going to have to react in the right way, to be mentally strong enough to come through that.”