England can beat Italy to be crowned European champions and can target golden period, says Jamie Redknapp

Jamie Redknapp: “We’ve got so many good young players and we shouldn’t just be looking at this tournament now, we should be looking at the future as well and maybe a golden period where we can go and have some really good years for football in this country”

Thursday 8 July 2021 17:13, UK

Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp believes England’s journey to the final of Euro 2020 is a “great experience” for Gareth Southgate’s young squad – and could be just the start of a “golden period” for the national team…

‘It’s what the country needed’

There were incredible scenes at Wembley on Wednesday night. I’m so pleased for the boys and the country. It just gives everybody such a lift and it was exactly what we needed right now.

I was scared of a penalty shootout and it felt like it was going that way. We were recording A League Of Their Own and we did an earlier recording and there were nerves around the whole room.

But, for some reason, I felt confident we were going to do it. The longer it went on, especially when Denmark were forced down to 10 men, it just felt a little easier. We started to get a bit more confidence and Gareth Southgate made some really good changes in the game, bringing on Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, who started to get on the ball and make things happen.

Denmark ran out of steam and once we got the penalty, although we had that 30 seconds of pure fear and dread that he’d missed it, but luckily Harry managed to scramble it in and then I could start to relax.

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After that, Denmark didn’t really have any threat and they looked tired and fatigued.

Then you could just see the pure joy from the players. The release of what we’d been waiting for to happen for so many years now.

It just makes you realise how much we love football and the joy it can bring to people. You forget that sometimes and having crowds back in football stadiums, it just gives it another level.

For so long, we’ve had to suffer, watching games and we’ve tried to pretend it is okay and that it’s still good to watch, but it’s not. It’s a different product all together completely.

So, to see all that unfold and seeing the joy for the fans, although it wasn’t quite full, you could still feel it and it transmitted back to everyone watching at home. Congratulations to the players, they have brought so much joy to the nation.

‘England must gamble and press Jorginho’

It’s going to be incredibly tough because Italy are a team that is so comfortable in their own skin. They are happy to defend and they’ve got players that just know their jobs inside out.

In the semi-final, Spain were by far the better team. They dominated possession but as the game wore on, they did everything in their power to stay the game. They won fouls and they slowed the game down.

They knew that getting to penalties would probably be their best way of winning because Spain were in the ascendancy after Alvaro Morata’s goal.

They don’t mind how they win. They just get the job done.

So, it’s going to be an extremely tough game. Have we got anything to fear? No. There are some elements in their team you can target.

I think Jorginho is a fantastic player technically, but can you hurry him up? Can you put him under pressure? When that ball gets played into him at times, of course he’s brilliant. He gets it on the half turn, play passes and sometimes he can make you look a little bit of a fool.

But you’ve still got to gamble and try and press him, winning the ball high up the pitch. If you can do that, then straight away you are at their back four and with their high full-backs, you can get the ball down the sides to get at them.

There are areas where you can get at this Italian side but make no mistake, they are a brilliant side. They are confident, they are resilient, and they are everything we talk about when discussing Italian sides.

So, it is going to be a hard game, but I personally feel yes, of course we can beat them. We will show them the respect they deserve, no doubt, and Gareth will be looking at a plan to make sure we do that.

But I don’t see this as a game against a team with five or six players who can take the game away from you. I don’t see that in this Italian side as they do it as a team. I think that’s why they have been so successful.

And to a certain extent, that is a bit like us. We do it as a team as well, so it’s all set up for a cracking final. It’s going to be a fascinating contest not just on the field but tactically off it too between the managers.

‘Sterling a real leader in this team’

There have been some real leaders that have jumped out from this team and ones perhaps that we didn’t believe would.

Before the tournament, Sterling was in and out of the Man City team but he’s the player of the tournament for me by far. The goals give confidence, make no mistake about it, but it’s not just his goals. Now I see a player that every time he gets the ball, he just wants to make something happen for the team.

He’s been the catalyst to everything we’ve done well, and you can see fear in the opposition every time he picks the ball up and runs with it.

I have to be honest; I knew he was a really good player, but he has elevated his game to another level right now. At times it might not always be easy on the eye. He might get the odd ricochet that goes his way but he has been such a force of nature for us and for me, he has been the driving force of that team.

There have been so many leaders in this team, but Sterling has led from the front with his all-round performances. He has been a real leader in this team.

‘An exciting future for England’

I’m a massive fan of Jack Grealish and I have said that all tournament. There have been times where I’ve felt we could have used him a bit more but when he comes onto the pitch, you can see the crowd adore him.

He has that Gazza effect when they get the ball everyone gets on the edge of their seat and you want to see something special.

But we’ve also got that in Saka, Jadon Sancho and others. We’ve got that in abundance and I believe that’s where the coaching from grassroots has really helped. I see kids now at 11 or 12 doing things on the ball I’m not sure my generation could do.

There are so many positives that have come through and what I do know about Jack Grealish is he’s fearless. Whether it is 10, 15 or 20 minutes against Italy in the final or whether he starts, there will be a bit of a fear factor if he comes on because nobody likes to be faced up with the ball and have a player run at them.

Teams love it when the opposition get the ball and pass it sideways but if someone gets hold of the ball, looks at you and tries to take you on, that brings fear.

It’s not just Jack, there’s Phil Foden coming on in the number 10 role. I enjoyed seeing him in there because I do believe long term, he’s going to be one of the best players in the world and we’ve got to find a way of getting him involved.

This is a great experience and a great journey for our young talent as well. The likes of Jude Bellingham will want more minutes, but it doesn’t matter. He’s soaking this experience up and he’ll be ready for the World Cup.

We’ve got so many good young players and we shouldn’t just be looking at this tournament now, we should be looking at the future as well and maybe a golden period where we can go and have some really good years for football in this country.

We’ve also got to be respectful because we haven’t done anything yet. We haven’t won anything since 1966 and Gareth Southgate has eluded to that already.

Let’s enjoy this moment, though, and let’s do our best against a really tough Italian side. Italy are a side that have caused us problems throughout the years. I remember Andrea Pirlo causing us huge problems a while back at a major tournament, but this is a slightly different Italy side.

The way they defend with Chiellini and Bonucci, they are stalwarts. They defend for their lives and they can win in a slightly different way.

Federico Chiesa was brilliant in the semi-final against Spain. He did brilliantly on the right, scoring Italy’s goal, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a central striker against us to give them some pace through the middle to try and cause our defence problems.

It will be interesting to see how both sides set up and how both managers approach the game. It’s mouth-watering and I cannot wait for it.

‘Grealish still has big part to play’

Jack Grealish came on for England in the 69th minute against Denmark before he was subbed off by Southgate in extra-time.

I don’t want to make a story of it because it’s done now. Gareth thought it was the right thing to do for the team. You draw a line under it and I’m sure Gareth and Jack will joke about it.

It doesn’t matter, we won the game. At the time, it was a big decision, it has worked and we are through.

Jack will have a part to play on Sunday, whether he starts or not. I don’t actually feel he will because of how Gareth has decided to use him and that is Gareth’s prerogative. Whatever he wants to do, whatever way he sees fit to get the best out of the team, it’s up to him.

If he feels it is Bukayo Saka, if he feels it is Phil Foden or Grealish or Rashford, whatever. It doesn’t matter, it’s his decision.

It’s a big one to make for the final. A lot of players will be disappointed, but you will need the whole squad pulling in the same direction. You need everybody buying into it and everybody will get their opportunity if needed.

It’s going to be a tough game against Italy and I’m sure Grealish will be part of it one way or another. No sulking, get on with it and that’s football. It can’t always go the way you want and the most important thing is England are through and into a final.

‘Southgate has got everything right, so far’

He was always the sensible one in that Euro ’96 squad but that wasn’t hard, if I’m honest.

He’s certainly a thinking man, not necessarily more than anyone else, but let’s put it this way, he wasn’t in the dentist chair. He was one of the players that stayed behind and was pretty sensible.

Gareth was a great trainer and a good footballer. He knew his strengths, knew his limitations but was always a thinking man and that’s why he’s done so well with this squad.

He’s lucky he’s got some really good young players because it doesn’t matter how good a manager you are, if you haven’t got the tools to work with you’ve got no chance, and I think this is a really strong generation of players. There are a lot of good young players that are wanting to learn.

I think we also have to give a lot of respect and almost a bit of gratitude to the managers that these players are working with.

A lot of them work every day with Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel and managers that have so much success, so they are learning from some of the best coaches in the world. Gareth is reaping the rewards for that and we are lucky we have got this group of players.

But we’ve also got a manager who is so calm and sound of mind that he knows what he is doing.

He’s surprised me with how strong he’s been with some of the decisions he has made. Some of the teams he has picked I’d have never picked them, never, and a lot of football people that know the game inside out would say the same.

So, you have to say you’ve got everything right, so far. So, fingers crossed he can do that again in the final.

Podcast: It’s nearly home… How the ‘new England’ could go all the way

Drink it in… England are in a major tournament final for the first time since 1966 after their extra-time win over Denmark at Wembley in semi-final of Euro 2020.

Kate Burlaga is joined by Rob Dorsett, Pete Smith and Nick Wright to discuss an historic night, and whether this ‘new England’ side can go all the way against Italy on Sunday.

Listen and subscribe on your podcast provider

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