Southgate's legacy on the line: Euro 2024 semi-finals await England

By Jurassic JennJul 11, 2024 07:22 AMSport
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 Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate . Source: https://www.skysports.com

As Gareth Southgate mentally prepares his team for England's Euro 2024 semifinal against the Netherlands in Dortmund, these upcoming days have the potential to define his legacy, SSP reported.

Throughout their time in Germany, emotions have run high for Southgate. From facing hostility and experiencing beer thrown at him in the aftermath of a draw with Slovenia in Cologne, to the jubilant scenes as he danced in front of cheering fans following a quarterfinal victory against Switzerland on penalties in Dusseldorf.

Speculations are rife that Southgate's eight-year stint as manager will draw to a close after Euro 2024, regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's match against the Dutch or even a potential final against Spain in Berlin on Sunday.

England's performances in the tournament have been a mixed bag, but their ability to showcase resilience and individual brilliance has brought them to the final four, presenting two distinct possibilities for the tournament's end and possibly shaping Southgate's tenure.

Should England lift the trophy at the Olympiastadion this Sunday, Southgate will etch his name in history. He will join the ranks of Sir Alf Ramsey, the manager who led the men's team to victory in the 1966 World Cup, becoming only the second manager to achieve such success in a major tournament.

On the other hand, if England succumbs to defeat against the Dutch, Southgate will be remembered as the manager who consistently guided his team to the latter stages of major tournaments but ultimately fell short of clinching the ultimate triumph.

Triumphs over the Netherlands and Spain would provide Southgate with a definitive response to the inquisition around his tactics and perceived conservativeness that overshadowed his eight-year tenure, despite the fantastic achievement of leading England to three semifinals and a final - their heartbreaking loss to Italy on penalties at Euro 2020 at Wembley.

However, the spotlight remains on England's ability to clear the final hurdle, making the events at Westfalenstadion on Wednesday of paramount importance.

Throughout his time in Germany, Southgate endured moments of vulnerability, his voice quivered and hesitant when answering whether he was affected by criticism after the Slovenia match. He visibly bristled when asked about England's placement in the supposedly more favorable half of the draw, dismissing it as an example of entitled thinking that creates unnecessary drama and annoys rivals.

Although Southgate managed to maintain his composure publicly, an underlying edge and angst became noticeable, revealing that the criticism had indeed wounded him.

"This is a job where you get ridiculed, and your professional capability is constantly questioned," he expressed. "I don't think it's normal to have beer thrown at you either, but my life's experiences have shaped me into a more resilient person. I just use it as fuel."

England's progress through Group C was not without its struggles. The behavior of few individuals hurling beer was disrespectful and failed to respect the due reverence that Southgate deserves.

His jubilation after the victorious encounter with Switzerland proved evident through his spontaneous celebration in front of a crowd that had initially turned on him and the team during and after their group-stage draws against Denmark and Slovenia.

Southgate also expressed frustration towards the media for revealing tactical changes before the Switzerland game, considering it a leak of vital information shortly after the team stepped off the training pitch.

This incident reinforces the notion that the England camp this time has not been as tightly knit as in previous tournaments and, at times, seemed relatively flat, at least during the earlier stages of Euro 2024.

Nevertheless, the Three Lions have made it to the semifinals, providing Southgate and his players with an opportunity to script a remarkable new chapter in English sporting history.

A sense of calm and a different driving force now radiate from the squad as they progress through Euro 2024. Referring to their past strengths, Southgate stated, "One of our qualities in recent years has been playing without fear, showing less inhibition. However, at the start of the tournament, expectations weighed heavily on us, and external noise grew louder. We couldn't quite find our footing."

"Now it's about focusing on what is possible and hushing the concerns of what might go wrong. We have the chance to create history. Breaking new ground is not easy, but the resilience of the players speaks volumes."

Southgate's work has also received ample praise. Former England striker Chris Sutton, after witnessing their advancement to the semifinals, asserted, "Gareth Southgate has proven a lot of people wrong during this tournament. I'm absolutely delighted for him. Gareth mentioned instances of beer thrown at him during certain games and more. That is not how you treat an England manager."

"When you consider his track record as England manager – three semifinals and a quarterfinal out of the last four tournaments, along with a final appearance - and the fact that people have labeled him unimaginative and subpar, he has once again disproven those claims. Gareth South-great!"

As England once again faces the Netherlands, old adversaries, under the charge of coach Ronald Koeman, it is worth recalling their previous encounters. Koeman notably played in the Netherlands' 3-1 victory against Sir Bobby Robson's side in the 1988 European Championship in Dusseldorf. However, he also gained notoriety for his actions during a World Cup qualifier in October 1993, where his foul on David Platt – towing him back when he was clear through - resulted merely in a yellow card. Koeman later scored a free-kick to seal England's fate in a detrimental 2-0 defeat, denying them a spot in the 1994 finals. He had already retired from international duty before England's scintillating 4-1 win at Wembley during Euro '96.

Now, Southgate and England find themselves on the brink of making history, just two games away. Ultimately, when recounting England's triumph, the history books will focus solely on their accomplishment, rather than their style of play in writing that new chapter.

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