MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: England’s quest to win a major championship since 1966 began early this Friday morning as the Three Lions squad began their Euro 2024 qualification campaign against the defending champions, Italy.
After taking time out to consider his future following a World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of France in December, Gareth Southgate will remain as England boss and try for a fourth time at glory.
Southgate is already seeing a transformation that is changing his country’s fortunes on the international stage.
But after reaching the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals in the last three major tournaments, as well as ending a 58-year drought in Germany next year will be seen as a disappointment.
Southgate may have sounded a warning this week about the lack of regular England players in the Premier League (EPL) but he admitted it was a long-term concern with the talent at his disposal.
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham are proving they are two young talents in football in Qatar.
Harry Kane’s goals for his country will make him England’s record holder while Marcus Rashford’s potential has finally been realized under Erik ten Hag at Manchester United.
Injury to Rashford means he will miss this week’s openers against Italy and Ukraine but Southgate has no shortage of substitutes with Manchester City pair Phil Foden and Jack Grealish expected to battle it out for places.
Of all the successes under Southgate, the win over Germany in the last 16 of Euro 2020 remains the only knockout stage win against a major nation in international football.
“This is a game we have to show we can win,” Southgate said of the clash with Italy in the atmosphere at the Estadio Diego Armanda Maradona near Naples.
“That’s the next level for us as a team.”