Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate draws 'bang average' Euro '96 comparison in fresh hope for England

Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate draws 'bang average' Euro '96 comparison in fresh hope for England

Gareth Southgate has told his England players history will look kindly on their stuttering start to Euro 2024 should they go on to glory this summer - with his own team’s “bang average” performances at Euro ’96 as proof.

England escaped a humiliating last-16 exit against Slovakia by the skin of their teeth on Sunday night, with Jude Bellingham’s 95th-minute bicycle-kick forcing extra-time, before Harry Kane’s winner set up a quarter-final meeting with Switzerland next weekend.

That performance did little to shift the narrative around a flat campaign following three underwhelming group stage displays but England now find themselves just one win away from a third semi-final in four tournaments under Southgate.

Southgate was famously part of the England side that reached the last-four of Euro ’96 on home soil, a tournament that bears iconic status among Three Lions supporters. The 53-year-old, though, sees parallels between that campaign and this.

“Everybody now, 30 years on, looks back at ’96 that I played in in a different way to how it was at the time,” he said. “We were bang average against Switzerland, we were the same against Scotland.

“Scotland missed a penalty at 1-0. Spain should have beaten us in a 0-0 draw. [The World Cup] in 1990 was similar so you do go through these moments in tournaments.”

The glaring omission within that list is the 4-1 thrashing of the Netherlands during the group stage, which still now ranks among England’s greatest, most free-flowing tournament displays.

So far in Germany, Southgate’s forward line in particular has looked horribly disjointed, but the manager is hopeful the manner of Sunday’s dramatic victory can spark their campaign into life.

“There’s no question it will give the whole group belief,” he added. “The character they've shown, they're going to take so much from what they've come through tonight.

England left it late - but they’re still alive at Euro 2024 (AP)
England left it late - but they’re still alive at Euro 2024 (AP)

“What can't be questioned is the togetherness of the group, the way they're fighting for each other and in knockout football that can be as important as everything else.”

Southgate will be forced into at least one change for Saturday’s meeting with the Swiss in Dusseldorf, with centre-back Marc Guéhi suspended after picking up his second yellow card of the campaign against Slovakia.

Aston Villa defender Ezri Konsa is favourite to take his place having come off the bench in extra-time in Gelsenkirchen to make his major tournament bow, with the other options - Lewis Dunk and Joe Gomez - yet to feature.

In Ivan Toney, though, Southgate has the perfect example of a player seizing their opportunity when called upon, the Brentford striker having gone unused through the group stage before coming on to make Kane’s winner on Sunday night.

“I have to say they're all impressing me, that group that hasn't played yet,” Southgate added.

“If you’ve got any sort of fracture in the camp at a tournament you're in trouble, and those guys, they're training well, they're with the group, they're socially good. I can't speak highly enough about all of them and it was great that another couple of them got onto the pitch.

“When you win with all the top players on the pitch, that's one thing, but when you win with all the guys that have gone in at a critical moment, that doesn't half build a spirit in the group.”