Gareth Southgate has expressed his pride at leading England to a Euro 2020 final ahead of the showdown with Italy on Sunday.
Wembley is the stage for the England men's team's first major final since the 1966 World Cup and the Three Lions have been cast as the underdogs against Robero Mancini’s impressive Italy side.
Southgate has risen through the ranks to become England manager, first coaching the Under-21 side, and the 50-year-old admitted it was a great honour to lead the Three Lions out against Italy.
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“To be able to hear Wembley like it was and to know how that will have been around the country is an honour,” Southgate said.
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“Because we’re a special country, we are historically an incredible country and I know I couldn’t be prouder to be an Englishman.
I can’t be prouder to have the opportunity to lead my country so to bring happiness at this time where it’s been so difficult is a very special feeling.
“I’m not embarrassed about losing my head a little bit in that moment [after the match].
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“Once you step off the pitch you know you’re into preparing for the next game and everything that goes with that so to be able to have that moment on the pitch with the fans is for me always the most special part.”
Italy had the more gruelling semi-final after their clash with Spain went to penalties, but Mancini’s side will have an extra 24 hours of rest on England.
Southgate insisted it was an advantage for Italy and heaped praise on Mancini and his team.
“It is definitely a bit of a disadvantage but we have to find the best way of dealing with that,” Southgate said.
Italy’s record is phenomenal – ten finals. We’ve got a huge task ahead of us but one that we’ll take on with relish.
“What Roberto [Mancini] has done and the way Italy have played in the last couple of year… it speaks for itself in terms of the wins, the small number of goals conceded. The style of play has been exceptional.
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“To get to a semi-final in Russia was probably ahead of where we expected. To get to a final now, it’s hard to say. That was our aim, for sure.
“You’re never quite certain how things are going to play out when we had so many issues to deal with at the start. But we are there and we now have a wonderful opportunity.”
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