In Depth

England expects: Gareth Southgate admits his job is on the line at Euro 2020

Three Lions boss plans ahead for the 2022 World Cup - even though he may not be in charge

Gareth Southgate admits that his job as England head coach will be on the line at next summer’s Uefa European Championships. 

England have qualified for the tournament as one of the top six seeds and they go into Euro 2020 as one of the favourites in a competition which they are serial underperformers.

Not only have the Three Lions never won the Euros, but they’ve never even reached the final, an abysmal state of affairs set alongside their main European rivals - Italy, Germany, Spain, Holland, Portugal and France - who have all won the title. 

So, too, have Denmark and Greece, making England’s record of two semi-final appearances (1968 and 1996) all the more pitiful.

England expects

Having reached the semi-final of the 2018 Fifa World Cup, England are strong contenders for European football’s showpiece tournament.

Southgate knows that the country has high expectations - especially with their three group games being played at Wembley.

“We’ve got to accept that,” he said. “We should go in feeling confident about ourselves and, equally, we know there are areas of the game we’ve got to get better at. We’ve dealt well with the expectation over the last 18 months. 

“We’ve not shirked from that in the qualifying matches where, in the past, there’s been a tension around the performances and the style of the games.” 

Joyless

Southgate admitted that England’s qualification for the Euros felt a bit flat because of the ease of their group. 

Victorious in seven of their eight matches, England finished six points clear of the Czechs - the only team that beat the Three Lions - having scored 37 goals and conceded just six. 

They thrashed most of their opponents with embarrassing ease and that diluted the squad’s sense of achievement in winning group A. 

“Securing qualification is a little bit joyless because I’m expecting us to win these games and I’m always looking at how to get better,” he added. “The players deserve huge credit for the way they’ve come through this campaign. 

“But, for me, it’s about what’s next and I know we’ll always be judged ultimately by the tournaments in the summer.”

England captain Harry Kane celebrates his goal in the 4-0 win over Kosovo

Armend Nimani/AFP via Getty Images

German efficiency

England won’t be in action again until March and Southgate plans to use the hiatus not just to prepare for the Euros but also to look further ahead, to the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar. 

To that end he will be in Qatar in December to see how Liverpool fare in the Club World Cup campaign, which is being played in the month when the World Cup will be in full swing.

“When I started [as manager] and we looked at other federations, we were almost embarrassed to go and look at where we should be preparing for,” explained Southgate.

“Germany were always there, and they’d already secured the best hotel! So, I think we’ve had to be a bit bolder and say: ‘No, look, it’s not a jinx to go and do it’. 

“We’ve got to have belief in what we’re doing and execute the right preparation. Without taking any focus off what we’re doing next summer, we’ve got to get the next bit right, otherwise we’ll be behind the curve.”

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Love story

Asked if he expected to be at the helm in 2022, as agreed in his contract, Southgate replied: “Well, that will depend very much on how we get on next summer. 

“When you have a week like you’ve had, you sense that people can fall out of love with you and if there isn’t a warmth for you to continue, then that can start to affect the team. 

“So, I’m realistic about how quickly those tides can turn, but we’ve always planned short, mid and long-term over the last eight years.”

Today’s back pages 

Tottenham line up Pochettino replacements, Jones fears Saracens Six Nations snub, Southgate job hinges on Euros

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