England now have 'streetwise' edge to win tournaments, says Gareth Southgate after Euro 2024 quarter-final win

England now have 'streetwise' edge to win tournaments, says Gareth Southgate after Euro 2024 quarter-final win

Gareth Southgate says his England side are developing the "streetwise nature" of European heavyweights Spain, Italy and France after they beat Switzerland on penalties to set up a European Championship semi-final.

England will play the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday after a 5-3 shootout win over the Swiss, following a scrappy 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

For the second knockout game running following the extra-time win over Slovakia, England struggled to create chances and had to dig deep, with Bukayo Saka equalising in the 80th-minute with a brilliant finish to cancel out Breel Emolo's goal.

England are now preparing for a third semi-final in four tournaments under Southgate, who believes this young squad at Euro 2024 is more savvy than previous generations.

“There's what we ideally want to be, and then there's how we've needed to find ways to win with all the obstacles we've had," Southgate said.

“Going back to losing players a couple of months ago, losing players just before the tournament, different balance of the team, different challenges all the way through, really.

Gareth Southgate hailed the resilience of his England side (Getty Images)
Gareth Southgate hailed the resilience of his England side (Getty Images)

“But, yeah, as I said to the players, again, with England it was often start 25 minutes really well, ahead in games and then out in the early knockout rounds.

“We weren't savvy, we weren't tournament wise. This group are different. They keep possession for longer periods. We haven't always got it right. The games with that we've ultimately gone out people can always look back and highlight things.

“But, in general, we've shown the resilience that the teams that win tournaments have had for years and years.

“Italy, France, Spain, you know, it's not all pure football. It's other attributes that they've had, and we're showing a little bit more of that streetwise nature. We want to always be competitive in tournaments. England should be competitive for the coming years.

“This is a young team that a lot of them are going to be around for a long time. But, of course, now we want to deliver one.

“We've never been to a final outside of England, we've never won a Euros, so there's two bits of history we'd love to create.”

Saka was England's hero, equalising magnificently five minutes after Embolo bundled in at the far post, before coolly dispatching his penalty in the shootout to banish the demons of missing the decisive spot-kick in the defeat to Italy in the final of the last Euros.

The Arsenal forward, who played right wing-back in England's changed hybrid formation, was brilliant all game, terrorising his man Michel Aebischer in the first half.

"I gave him a massive cuddle on the pitch," Southgate said. "He's a special boy, he's a dream to work with, wonderful family.

“Of course pleased for everybody, but for him especially when his went in. That takes courage but we have belief in him. We had belief in him previously.

“He's now got a lot more experience of those pressure moments and his all-round performance was exceptional.

“The detail of how he had to defend, track and be in the right positions was very complex down that side of the pitch. Then to give us the outlet in those one against one situations, we felt could be a real advantage for us.

“He did, he kept that positive note, so, yeah, his performance was immense.”

Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold also scored from the spot, with Jordan Picking saving Switzerland's first effort from Manchester City's Manuel Akanji.

“We think we've got a good process," Southgate said. "We've been in four, we've won three.

“Of course, we got absolutely crucified for the one we lost and that's always going to be the case because it's outcome based. We refined that process a little bit, we have more regular penalty takers in the squad now than then and more that have been in shoot-outs.

“But I think we've had a really calm process. But having said all that, the players have to show the composure that they did, and for all of them, you know, so many little stories within that.

“Cole, at his age, coming into a game like that, taking the first. Bukayo, his history with it. You sort of dismiss Jude because you almost expect it, but that's still high pressure.

England will face the Netherlands in the last-four at Euro 2024 (REUTERS)
England will face the Netherlands in the last-four at Euro 2024 (REUTERS)

“Ivan coming on knowing that one of the reasons we bought him was for that moment.

“And then Trent, who has stuck with the task. He could have easily thought his tournament was done, but I've kept talking to him about you know he's going to have moments. There's still a big part to play.

“I'm super pleased for all of them and of course the goalkeeper will always make at least one save, so that gives us a chance.”

Southgate was booed and pelted with plastic bottles by a minority of England fans after the 0-0 draw with Slovenia in the group stage but celebrated in front of supporters with the players afterwards.

The 53-year-old admitted the personal nature of the criticism has stung.

“Every now and then you think surely there has to be some enjoyment in this job!" he said.

"If I can't enjoy that moment, then the whole thing is a waste of time. I love the players, I loved being in that moment with them. I can't deny when it's as personal as it's been the last few weeks, on a human level that's quite difficult."