England boss Gareth Southgate admits he’s looking forward to renewing acquantances with some old rivals later this year in the UEFA Nations League.
The Three Lions were drawn out alongside Belgium, Iceland and Denmark in the second edition of the Nations League on Tuesday afternoon, with fixtures to be played in September, October and November.
And despite having UEFA EURO 2020 this summer to concentrate on first, Southgate is pleased to know his squad will face some tough tests to end the year with after leading England to the inaugural Nations League semi-finals last year.
“There’s some good matches, it’s nice to play some different teams in competitive games,” he said, following the draw in Amsterdam.
“It’s a really good fixture with Belgium, a team we haven’t played so much in the last couple of years.
“We found it a really good competition last time. There was the excitement - playing those top matches rather than having those friendlies.
“They’re important for us this month, in terms of preparation for a Finals, but in that September, October and November period the competitive games are better and I think the best way to improve is to play the best teams.”
It will be England’s first meeting with Belgium since they met in the 2018 World Cup third place game in St Petersburg, when Roberto Martinez’s side won 2-0.
And their last encounter with Iceland came almost four years ago in EURO 2016, when Roy Hodgson’s team were knocked out of the competition in Nice.
“These matches will be a much greater test of our all-round game and it will be on the back of a summer which we don’t know the outcome of and where we will be as a team,” added Southgate.
“We’ve got very proficient in the European Qualifiers at playing teams who defended deep and we managed to score a lot of goals but you’re only developing one part of your game in those tests.”
“We also blooded a lot some really good young players through that competition last time.”TICKETS: ENGLAND V ITALY
TICKETS: ENGLAND V DENMARK