NAPLES, Italy – Gareth Southgate said England should use the fact that Italy failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup as a warning not to take their place at Euro 2024 for granted.
The Azzurri won Euro 2020, beating Southgate’s team on penalties in the final, but missed last November’s World Cup in Qatar after losing to North Macedonia in a playoff.
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Euro 2024 qualifying Group C pits England against Italy, North Macedonia and Malta, beginning with Thursday’s trip to Naples, where the Three Lions will try to win for the first time since 1961.
England overcame their Euro 2020 disappointment with a resounding 4-0 win over Hungary next time around and Southgate is aiming for a similar response in their bid to consign France’s World Cup quarter-final knockout to history. from December.
“Certainly (Italy’s recent history is a cautionary tale), Southgate said. “I think what we did very well after Euro was that our first game was in Hungary and we put in one of our best performances, I think.
“Our mentality from the start was very, very good. I don’t expect that mentality to be a problem, but it is a reminder that these early qualifying stages are crucial.”
“I remember we scored a late goal against Poland at Wembley without fans and people would have taken that win for granted, but it was a very important moment in qualifying. We had several of those in our previous qualifying campaigns.
“While some of those groups seemed comfortable at the end, there were many nights where that wasn’t the case.”
Southgate challenged his players to break new ground while acknowledging the need to start anew at the start of another tournament cycle.
“They know the level it takes, they know they have the ability to compete at that level,” said Southgate, who could earn his 50th win as England manager in his 82nd cap.
“So the fact that whatever we’ve done in the past is irrelevant tomorrow night because we have to start over. We have to work hard to qualify again and it’s a great prop for us to get that going.”
“Simply put, it’s the kind of challenge we have to take on and the kind of game we have to start winning.
“We’ve (done that) for a period, but we have to constantly try to do it. That being said, we haven’t won here since 1961, so it’s also another part of history that we’re trying to break.”
“That’s a big challenge for this team because they’ve broken down a lot of those barriers in the past.”