Speaking ahead of their opening game against Croatia, England manager Gareth Southgate has said that success at the European Championships can help ‘unite’ the country.
England are one of the favourites to win the competition, and the Three Lions are likely to play the vast majority of their games on home soil if they are to go all the way.
However, the build-up to the competition has been marred by a small section of England ‘fans’ booing players for taking the knee in the fight against racism.
“If the team can be a catalyst for that then that’s brilliant.
“I think the England team is often a catalyst for bringing people together … so of course in the process of doing that we want to play well, we want to win, we want to excite people, but not all of that falls upon us.”
Southgate, who reached the last-four for the Three Lions as a player at Euro 1996, says that it is time for the squad to “remember what a strong nation we are”.
“We’ve had lots of division and sometimes we need to remember what a strong island we are, what a strong nation we are, the great qualities that we have,” he said.
“There were moments at the beginning of the pandemic that were so powerful where people did pull together, I think we should always be striving towards that.”
England are in Group D alongside Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland, kicking off their campaign on Sunday against the Croats.
Southgate will be left with a number of tough decisions to make for the starting eleven on Sunday, especially with Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson still fighting for full fitness.
The 50-year-old also has a plethora of attacking options at his disposal, with Jack Grealish constantly impressing whenever he plays for his country, as he did against Romania in England’s last pre-tournament friendly.
Young winger Bukayo Saka also did himself no harm by scoring the only goal against Austria in a friendly.
It’s not a bad headache to have, but Southgate will be hoping to get off to the perfect start at Wembley tomorrow afternoon.
Euro 2020 is finally here – and what better way to celebrate than with a preview show to mark the launch of our new multi-sport website Planet Sport?
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