Gareth Southgate hailed England’s “immense” performance in their historic 2-0 victory against Germany and urged his players to achieve something special after reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
England’s manager was full of pride after his side rose to the occasion in front of 41,973 fans at Wembley, defeating one of their fiercest rivals with late goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, but he does not want to see any complacency against Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.
Southgate kept his emotions in check after the final whistle, even though it was a moment of personal redemption after his missed penalty against Germany at Euro 96, and he refused to say that beating Joachim Löw’s side had sent a warning to the rest of the tournament’s sides.
“I think the players were immense right the way through the team,” Southgate said. “To know so many millions of people after such a difficult year at home can have that enjoyment is very special. When we got in the dressing room we were talking about Saturday. Today was immense. But emotionally and physically there is a cost.
“It’s a dangerous moment for us. The warmth of success, the feeling we only have to turn up to win the thing, we know it’s going to be an immense challenge. The players know that. They should feel confident from the way they’ve played. We came here with an intention and we’ve not achieved that yet.
“I’m just thinking about Saturday. It was lovely to be on the side to see the second goal go in. It was a really special moment. We’ve not achieved what we want to achieve yet. We can look back on today in the future. I want to get Saturday right.”
England, whose switch to 3‑4‑3 paid off, had lost four successive knockout matches against Germany since the 1966 World Cup final. They had also won only one knockout tie in European Championship history.
“Today is a big result,” Southgate said. “We haven’t put together a semi‑final [England made the last four at Russia 2018] followed by a quarter‑final since 1966. These players keep writing history. They have the chance again. We’ve only been to one European Championship semi‑final. They have the chance to do something really special.”
Harry Maguire, outstanding in England’s back three, echoed Southgate’s call for focus and stressed that being on the supposedly easier side of the draw was irrelevant. “I’m not going to play it down, it means everything to beat them,” Maguire said. “We changed our formation to counteract theirs. We were aggressive all over the pitch. Credit to the coaching staff. The gameplan worked brilliantly and we executed it really well.
“The side of the draw means absolutely nothing. You’ve seen in recent matches in this tournament that if you don’t play to a level you’ll get punished. We don’t get carried away. If we don’t perform we’ll lose. Come Saturday we know it’s business again.”
England were accused of being too negative during the group stage but Declan Rice argued that they had silenced the doubters. “A lot of people had written us off: complaints about the performances. not scoring enough goals,” the midfielder said. “You read a load of things. As players you put them to the back of your mind but you want to prove people wrong.
“I think today with a full house, everybody had that fire in their belly to go out there and, one, knock Germany out of the tournament and, two, for us to progress to the next round. It’s history. In the press conferences all week players have been asked about past games with Germany but we’ve created our own little bit of history today.”
Germany’s defeat marked an end to Löw’s 15 years in charge. Hansi Flick, the former Bayern Munich manager, is to take over from the 61-year-old. “All I can say is in these 15 years there were a lot of positive things,” Löw said.
“We won the World Cup in 2014 and then the Confederations Cup in 2017. Since 2018 we have had problems. In the end we haven’t managed to impose our style of play on teams.
“I have met people who have supported me and have become very important in my life. There are experiences I had that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. The disappointment will stay for a while but I am sure that there are a lot of positives I can take from these 15 years.”