Gareth Southgate has urged the nation to ‘stop looking at the negatives of our own country’ because ‘England has so much to be proud of’ ahead of the Euro 2020 final tomorrow night.
As many as 35million people are set to cheer on the Three Lions against Italy in the final of Euro 2020 in the fervent hope that Harry Kane will follow in the golden footsteps of Bobby Moore and lead England to glory.
And almost 70,000 will turn Wembley into a cauldron of noise for the epic clash, which kicks off at 8pm.
Last night, Southgate spoke out about the huge wave of patriotic support offered up to the Three Lions throughout the tournament.
The England manager said: ‘We have so many things here that we should be proud of that we probably underestimate that.
‘We are always looking at the negatives of our own country and yet we have got so much to be proud of and so much talent coming through in all industries really.’
He added: ‘For an island our size we’ve got an incredible influence on the world and we’ve got to keep that in a positive way.
‘There are historic things that we should be proud of. We’ve had unbelievable inventions in this country.’
He acknowledged that Britain’s history likely contributed to the support from the 40,000 fans inside Wembley when England took on Germany last week.
He said: ‘People have tried to invade us and we’ve had the courage to hold that back.
‘You can’t hide that some of the energy in the stadium against Germany was because of that. I never mentioned that to the players, but I know that´s part of what that story was.’
Last night, Kane, 27, said he felt an extra surge of ‘motivation and confidence’ after being compared to Moore.
Tomorrow night the nation will come to a standstill, united in the fervent hope that Harry Kane will follow in the golden footsteps of Bobby Moore and lead England to glory
The two England captains were born just eight miles away from each other in east London – albeit some 52 years apart.
In a rallying cry to his teammates, Kane said: ‘These are the opportunities you have to grab with both hands.’
Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in that 1966 World Cup final to beat West Germany 4-2, lent his support to the players yesterday.
The 79-year-old told the Daily Mail: ‘This isn’t a football match, it’s a national event. Millions of people who don’t normally watch football will all be united, cheering England on.
‘We’re very fortunate as a country to have this huge boost to the spirits during the pandemic and if you are going to pick a time to do well, now’s that time.’
He added: ‘Everything about this talented young England squad reminds me of that hard-nosed bunch of professionals we were back in 1966. I see that same camaraderie and determination.’
Villages, towns and cities across England have been bedecked with St George’s flags as the fervour grips the nation. In other developments:
- Boris Johnson will announce a special one-off Bank Holiday – likely to be in August – on Monday if England win tomorrow;
- Euros fever has delivered a £3.4billion spending spree on partying, drinking, souvenir merchandise and supersize TVs, analysts said;
- Schools across England announced they will allow pupils a lie-in on Monday following the final;
- The NHS is braced for a surge in heart attacks tomorrow as the stress of watching football takes its toll on the nation’s health;
- EU chief Ursula von der Leyen – who threatened a vaccine war with the UK earlier this year – announced she will be supporting Italy;
- Ministers have been told to stop using the phrase ‘It’s coming home’ – a reference to the England football anthem Three Lions – because it annoys other countries.
Tomorrow’s final could be the most watched event in UK broadcast history, media analyst Claire Enders predicted.
The biggest UK audience ever recorded is still the 1966 World Cup final, which is estimated to have been seen live by 32.3 million across the BBC and ITV. Both broadcasters will also share coverage of the Euro 2020 final.
A triumph against the impressive Italians would be a welcome tonic after the pain of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gareth Southgate’s men will be urged on by Prince William, the president of the Football Association, who has been in the royal box for England’s two previous games at Wembley.
Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in that 1966 World Cup final to beat West Germany 4-2, seen above, lent his support to the players yesterday
Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst are seen after winning the 1966 World Cup final against Germany
The prince tweeted: ‘The whole country will be behind you on Sunday.’ During a visit to a pub in Wales yesterday, Prince Charles said he would be watching the final at home.
He told the Ponthir House Inn in Newport: ‘It would be marvellous if they won.’ Admitting the tension of the games was getting to him, the Prince of Wales added: ‘Watching the football, it’s rather too much for the nerves.’
Fans continued their desperate hunt for tickets yesterday, as some were sold by touts for an astonishing £54,000 each.
Others paid upwards of £50 each to watch the game at pubs or fan zones – most of which appeared to be booked out last night. Millions of other are planning parties at home. Southgate said: ‘We’re a special country, we are historically an incredible country and I know I couldn’t be prouder to be an Englishman… to bring happiness at this time where it’s been so difficult for this period is a very special feeling.’
Meanwhile, tomorrow’s Wimbledon men’s final will feature an Italian for the first time as Matteo Berrettini takes on the world No 1, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.