England manager Gareth Southgate says his penalty miss at Euro 96 is “irrelevant” heading into Tuesday’s mammoth knockout clash against Germany
Having topped Group D unbeaten without conceding, the Three Lions will have to go up a gear when they return to Wembley for the eagerly-anticipated Euro 2020 last-16 encounter with Die Mannschaft.
More than 40,000 will be under the arch for England’s biggest match on home soil since Euro 96 25 years ago, when Southgate’s saved penalty proved costly in the heartbreaking semi-final shootout loss to Germany.
But the Three Lions boss does not see Tuesday as a shot to exorcise any demons, rather a chance for his players to add an exciting new chapter to their story.
“This team, I’ve said for a long time, have had so many unique achievements and my focus is on this team and helping them to succeed,” Southgate said in conversation with BBC Radio 5 Live and talkSPORT.
“What’s happened for me as a player is totally irrelevant in terms of tomorrow’s game, so of course I’m always motivated to want to win.
“It’s an opportunity to get to the quarter-final of a European Championship and it’s the sort of big game that we want to come out on the top side on.
“But anything other than that, it would be wrong for me to be even speaking about.
“This is about our players. This is their moment and it’s their opportunity.”
Asked if perhaps his Euro 96 nightmare might give his players extra motivation to win it for him, Southgate said with a laugh: “Good grief, no. I don’t think we’ll be relying on that!
“I’ve just said to them this week ‘look, the montages have been up on half-time during matches – forget it, it’s irrelevant for you, it’s of no importance to you what’s happened’.
“I did make the point to Jude (Bellingham) what happened in 1970 is probably not high on your list of priorities.
“So, no, this is about them. This is about them having a chance to achieve something, and certainly not for me to take any shine off of that.
“I want to get to a quarter-final just as much as anybody else does, so motivation is high, of course, but for the players they’ll have their individual motivations and the collective.
“They’ve got a very strong bond and they want to do it for each other.”
Southgate’s comments are no surprise, especially as the group have consistently spoken about making their own history rather than worrying about past encounters with Germany.
The 1970, 1990 and 2010 World Cup exits to Die Mannschaft, along with that Euro 96 disappointment, mean little to a group who have the chance to help England record just their second European Championship knockout win.
“I mean, it’s an incredible record that, really,” said Southgate, who played in that Euro 96 quarter-final spot-kick triumph against Spain.
“I think it’s something we’ve talked about a lot as a team for the last four years. This team has that opportunity.
“I think in previous eras we have always talked about the past, teams and their records and baggage and everything else. And there’s no reason for these boys to feel that way.
“Most weren’t born when a lot of those games happened. It’s an irrelevance for them, so I think we’re all looking forward to the game tomorrow.
“We know it’s a fantastic game to be involved in and a real opportunity for us to progress to a quarter-final.
“Big opponent with excellent pedigree and great experience, but a game we’re really looking forward to.”
Southgate, who has to decide on the availability of Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell after ending isolation at midnight, added: “I think you can make these things as big in your head as you want, really.
“It’s a game of football. These boys are playing hundreds of them. There is of course great excitement with the fans and people tuning in to the game.
“But we’ve got to trust in the way we prepare, transferring what we do in training into the game and focus on the things we can control.
“Everything else outside it brings excitement, brings motivation, but it’s a game of football and an opportunity to get to a quarter-final and that’s what we’re focused on.”
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