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England ready for Euro 2024 challenge – Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate and England learned their Euro 2024 group on Saturday (Adam Davy/PA)
Gareth Southgate and England learned their Euro 2024 group on Saturday (Adam Davy/PA)

Gareth Southgate insists England will head into Euro 2024 ready to handle the expectation that comes with being ranked one of the tournament favourites.

The England boss and his players were pitted against Denmark, Serbia and Slovenia in Group C for next summer’s finals in Germany in Saturday night’s draw in Hamburg.

Southgate has overseen a transformation of England’s fortunes since he took over in 2016, steering them to a first World Cup semi-final since 1990 at the 2018 tournament in Russia and a first-ever Euro final appearance in 2021.

There were further signs of progress in December’s run to the World Cup quarter-finals and the side are firm favourites to take the final step and claim silverware, thanks in no small part to Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham and Bayern Munich sharpshooter Harry Kane.

“They are used to playing in big matches and have produced regularly,” Southgate said.

“They are used to playing in big matches together and individually, so we are excited and all looking forward to the summer.

“We feel the squad has been building for a period of time and England are going to be competitive for the foreseeable future as you look at the young players coming through. When we started at St George’s Park it is what we wanted to happen.

Harry Kane, right, celebrates a goal with Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham (left) and Harry Kane are two of England’s main hopes (Martin Rickett/PA)

“If you are continually in those latter stages, most teams that win go close and then get there.”

Denmark were England’s opponents in a tense semi-final at Euro 2020, when Kane scored from a penalty rebound after a spot-kick was controversially awarded for a foul on Raheem Sterling in extra time.

But Southgate also well remembers a past encounter with Slovenia.

England faced them in his second match in charge as interim manager in October 2016, a qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. England clung on for a point that day in a 0-0 draw, and Southgate saw it as a turning point in his England tenure.

“Slovenia takes me back to one of my first games as manager where but for Joe Hart plucking out one of the best saves I’ve ever seen, I wouldn’t be standing here and I would probably still be a caretaker, but at something else,” he said.

Gareth Southgate, left, with Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic and Denmark head coach Kasper Hjulmand, right, and the European Championship trophy at Saturday's draw
Gareth Southgate, left, with Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic and Denmark head coach Kasper Hjulmand, right, at Saturday’s draw (Adam Davy/PA)

Serbia are the opponents in the Arena AufSchalke opener on June 16 kicking off at 8pm UK time, before England take on Denmark at the Frankfurt Arena on June 20 at 5pm BST.

England round off Group C with another 8pm kick-off against Slovenia at Cologne Stadium on June 25 at a tournament they intend to spend based in central Germany.

UEFA provided a team base camp catalogue to teams, but the PA news agency understands the Football Association plans to stay at an unlisted venue.

Weimarer Land in Blankenhain has been lined up – a remote spa and golf resort that has a 45-hole course and, most importantly, two training pitches.

Final Football Association visits are planned at the venue that is around 90 minutes from host venue Leipzig and a 30-minute drive from the city of Erfurt.

Asked about England finalising their team base and pre-tournament friendlies, Southgate told PA after the draw: “Today allows us to take those plans to the next stage.

“Definitely the friendlies we’ve got an idea on dates, but we can now look at the opponents with more detail.

“Similar with the base camp. We know now where our matches will be played, so we can start to cement those plans in the next few days.”