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Gareth Southgate says there can be no let-up after sealing early qualification for Euro 2024, telling England’s players to grab next month’s chance to impress and ensure their place as top seeds.
Having set out their stall with an impressive victory over Italy in March’s Group C opener, three further wins and an away draw against Ukraine put them within touching distance of progress.
England took their chance to qualify for an eighth straight major tournament with two games to spare on Tuesday night, coming from behind to beat holders Italy 3-1 at a sold-out Wembley.
Southgate’s Euro 2020 runners-up have silverware in their sights next summer and are waiting to find out how things will shape up in Germany at the draw in Hamburg on December 2.
But before that comes the end of qualification at home to Malta and away to North Macedonia, with the England boss calling on his players to end an unbeaten 2023 on a high.
“We can now plan,” England boss Southgate told BBC Radio 5 Live after their place at Euro 2024 was mathematically secured.
“We have been planning anyway for base camps and things because I think the days are gone where we didn’t do that in case it brought bad luck.
“We decided a long time ago that you have to plan as if you’re going to be there.
We now can really start to look forward with enthusiasm for next summer, but we want to finish the year well
“We still need to win the matches next month because I think it won’t be enough to win the group to be one of the top seeds, so we’ll need a high points tally as well.
“But also I want to see all the players again next month.
“We’re not going to flog them physically. We didn’t do that this month. We’ve looked after them. We’re dealing well with the clubs on that.
“I have to say Manchester City were brilliant with this with John Stones. We’ve managed his return to play really well and I think that’s worked for both of us.
“So we now can really start to look forward with enthusiasm for next summer, but we want to finish the year, the calendar year, well as well next month.”
Southgate pledged to again give players the chance to stake their claims for a Euros spot in November’s fixtures.
“Similar to this month, we want to give people opportunities,” Southgate said at the post-match press conference.
“We need to win two matches firstly, but there’s a chance to look at look at players again, which we need to do.”
Ollie Watkins and Jarrod Bowen returned to the set-up in October and will be hoping to get another chance to impress, having started against Australia, with the former scoring in the 1-0 friendly win.
Levi Colwill and Eddie Nketiah are also in that boat, having made their debuts on Friday before Southgate reverted to the tried and tested against Luciano Spalletti’s revitalised Azzurri.
The England boss made a full 11 changes from the Socceroos encounter, with eight of Tuesday’s line-up having started the Euro 2020 final against Italy 27 months ago.
Skipper Harry Kane was, unsurprisingly, among them and took his record national team goal haul to 61 with his brace in the comeback triumph.
“There’s a risk we take the goals for granted,” Southgate said of the Bayern Munich sharpshooter.
“But his all-round play, his hold up play, the way physically dealt with the centre-backs, his vision, his passing – because we have had him for a while it’s easy to underestimate, but he’s a top-level player.
“He’s also now got a new experience at a different club, where he’s looking to win trophies all the time, and he’s got to win every week. (There is a) different sort of focus and pressure as the big signing there, so all of that’s good.
“I think he’s enjoying also coming back to England and mixing with the lads because he’s very close with all of the group.
“I’ve said before, our senior players set a brilliant example for the young ones.
“They provide that spirit. They’ve been through so much together and they provide us with such a brilliant platform.”
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