KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: England manager Gareth Southgate and defensive linchpin Harry Maguire celebrated putting a smile on the nation’s face after a tough year following the 2-0 victory over Germany at Euro 2020.
Late goals from Raheem Sterling and captain Harry Kane provided a 2-0 win in the round of 16 which sends England to a Rome quarter-final against Ukraine.
Some 40,000 fans were allowed into Wembley for this initial knockout tie, double the cap allowed by the health and governmental aurhotiries in the group stage.
Southgate said: “The players were immense and the fans in the stadium were also incredible. I’ve been here with a full house and I’ve not heard the noise levels of today.
“They were behind every challenge, every run and the energy was incredible in the stadium so to be able to send them home feeling as they do tonight and know that so many millions at home, after such a difficult year, can have the happiness we’ve given them feels very special.”
However Southgate cautioned that “it’s dangerous moment” because coaching staff and players cannot afford to allow their focus to drop only a matter of days away from the next challenge.
He said: “Already, when we got in the dressing room we were taking about Saturday because today has been at an immense physical and emotional cost and we must make sure we recover well. It’s a dangerus moment.
“We have that warmth of success and feeling around the country but we know it’s going to be an immense challenge from here on. The players know that. We came here with an intention and we’ve not achieved that yet.”
Centeral defender Maguire, UEFA’s official Star of the Match, similarly paid tribute to the fans.
He said: “To have the fans back felt like a proper football match. That was the atmosphere we’ve been missing so it was magnificent to put a smile on their face after two tough years.
“We knew we had to win the game and did it with a great controlled performance. We wanted to be brave on the ball, be aggressive and not give them too much space out wide so all credit to the coaching staff and Gareth.
“The game plan was brilliant and we executed it really well.”