England have fallen at the penultimate obstacle at major tournaments on four events since winning the World Cup in 1966; World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia three years ago was the latest but Southgate hopes his side have learned from that defeat
Gareth Southgate is compelling his England side to end their semi-final hex by beating Denmark and reaching their first final since 1966.
England have fallen at the semi-final hurdle at major competitions on four occasions since winning the World Cup in 1966.
The agonizing World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia three years ago was the latest but Southgate believes his side has learned from that disappointment ahead of Wednesday night’s encounter.
“We’ve knocked off so many hoodoos or perceived barriers already and I feel like this group of players will feel this is just the next challenge,” the England manager said.
“I guess the interesting part for us is we won’t feel totally satisfied if it’s just a semi-final for us, whereas maybe three years ago, although there was a massive disappointment after the semi-final, there was a feeling we’d come a long way.
“Now we’ve replicated what we did there, but that won’t be enough to fulfill the group. That’s a positive sign.
“The other thing that is so positive, these young players – 18, 19, 20, 21 – are getting more experiences of England that are positive and enjoyable and they’re feeling what it can be like to be in an England shirt and have fun and win matches and have a relationship with the fans that is positive.
“That’s so important for a generation to come. We’ll get more out of their talent if we can keep that relationship with the fans.”
A key difference to 2018 is the increased anticipation, with Southgate himself acknowledging their benchmark in Russia was to end England’s 12-year wait for a knockout victory.
The former defender now has more knockout wins than any England manager in history and will go looking for another in Wednesday’s semi-final in front of a loud partisan crowd of 60,000-plus.
“It’s great to be coming back now,” said Southgate, who anticipates teenager Bukayo Saka would return to training on Monday after skipping the Ukraine match with a slight knock.
“To go and have that different environment, preparation, focus was helpful.
“But now to be coming back to Wembley is a great thing for us.”
It doesn’t get much more comfortable than that. England’s regulated and prominent 4-0 win over Ukraine means they will face Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley on Wednesday. Would Gareth Southgate’s side go past this curse? And can they go all the way? Well, that’s for us to wait till Wednesday to find out.