London (AFP) – Gary Neville has expressed fears England will become the “nearly men” of world football if they lose a second successive major semi-final, hours before Gareth Southgate’s men face Denmark in the last four of Euro 2020 at Wembley on Wednesday.
England surprisingly reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and that led to increased expectations at this tournament, especially as all but one of their games have been in London.
This has already been a landmark event for England, who are yet to concede a goal, with a defeat of Germany in the last 16 their first knockout win over the Germans since the 1966 World Cup final — the last time they won a major tournament.
Former Manchester United and England right-back Neville, now a television pundit, is desperate for Southgate’s team to succeed where he failed as a member of the so-called ‘golden generation’ when his Three Lions team-mates included Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and David Beckham.
– ‘Night to be cold’ –
“History beckons for this team,” Neville — who was part of the last England team to reach the Euro semi-finals in 1996 — wrote on Instagram.
“To reach back-to-back Semi-Finals is incredible, but it’s not enough. You become nearly men!,” he added, insisting England faced a “really good” Denmark team and could not trust on luck.
“The only danger is that the lads don’t see the danger,” explained Neville. “When you’re euphoric and on a wave in sport or life you can have that feeling it’s never going to end and something becomes your right. It doesn’t work like that.
“Tonight is a night to be cold, don’t let emotion take over, stick to the manager’s plan and focus. Go for it lads! Focus and grab this chance!”
Neville was a member of England’s backroom staff under then manager Roy Hodgson when they suffered one of their most humiliating defeats, crashing out of Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland.
Hodgson, however, gave a ringing endorsement of Southgate’s squad by telling ITV’s Good Morning Britain they had been “faultless” so far at this edition.
Nevertheless, with England having suffered multiple shoot-out heartbreaks, Hodgson said he hoped the team’s quest to face Italy in Sunday’s final at Wembley was not decided on penalties.
“You can argue that the penalty shoot-out is better than the flip of a coin, but it is a very cruel way to lose matches.”