Gareth Southgate hoping England can return from Nations League as a team of winners

Thursday 06 Jun 2019
Gareth Southgate and his squad touched down in Portugal on Tuesday

Gareth Southgate says this summer’s Nations League Finals give his squad a chance to add to their winning mentality.

The Three Lions face the Netherlands in Thursday’s semi-final in Portugal, where a win will seal a place in the inaugural Nations League Final on Sunday.

And the England manager, whose squad contains a number of players with domestic honours this season, believes it’s an opportunity to go one better than last summer’s World Cup semi-final place.

“We want to get into the habit of winning big matches,” said Southgate.

“We know that European Championships and World Cups are ultimately what we’re preparing the team for, but winning is a great habit.

“Domestically, our players have won Premier League titles now, there’s Champions League winners, we’ve got Europa League winners and FA Cup winners.

Southgate's squad have been preparing for the Nations League Finals at St. George's Park over the last few weeks

“We’ve had a brilliant experience of getting to the semi-finals of a World Cup, so we want to keep being involved in these big matches.

“What we have to do is go from being a team that has got to two semi-finals to a team that converts that into wins.

“That will bring additional expectation, but we’ve got to live with that.”

England face a resurgent Dutch outfit under the charge of Ronald Koeman, who have picked up some impressive results since missing out on qualification for last year’s World Cup.

When the nations last met 15 months ago in Amsterdam, a Jesse Lingard goal separated the teams, but Southgate knows his side will face a different test this time.

“Ronald’s first game was against us, and obviously he’d had no time to work with the team, but we knew there were some good, young players coming through and you could see that the night we played them,” he explained.

“Since then, they’ve also had to recover from the disappointment of not qualifying for the World Cup and they’ve won big matches against important teams.

“You can see that they’re another country that are heading in the right direction. Ronald’s an excellent coach, vastly experienced and he’s got them playing in a way that we’re really impressed with so we know they’re going to be very strong for the next few years.”

Southgate and Ronald Koeman at the Nations League Finals draw last December

Given the number of club commitments for so many of the squad, Southgate has only been united with his full number since Tuesday when the players involved at last weekend’s Champions League Final arrived at St. George’s Park.

“It’s been a different sort of preparation for us,” admitted Southgate.

“I think you want to prepare the team as well as possible. We’ve had great preparation with 13 or 14 of the players but of course, we had seven in our final squad that were playing in Madrid or were involved in Madrid and the rest is not what you would hope.

“These are the challenges you’ve got to overcome and we’re very clear on what we need to do and how we need to go, so I can’t sit here and say that’s a better way of preparing.

“But, in football, very often you have to overcome different sorts of challenges and this is just a different one that we’ve had to deal with.”

By Nicholas Veevers