England manager Gareth Southgate has said that his team will not suffer from a World Cup hangover as they prepare for their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. The Three Lions will play Italy and Ukraine during the international break as they aim to secure a spot in the finals in Germany, starting with a game in Naples on Thursday night. Despite entering the qualifiers off the back of a quarter-final knockout at the World Cup, Southgate believes it is the perfect time for his side to face their former foes.
Southgate said that his team wants a big challenge immediately, and that playing Italy is a great test for them. He added that it is the perfect start to the qualification, even though if they could hand pick their group, they probably wouldn’t have England Italy as one of their fixtures. England did not face Italy at Qatar 2022 after the European champions failed to qualify for the competition. But the countries have met since that dramatic Euro final at Wembley Stadium, playing against each other twice in England’s horror Nations League campaign last year with the outcome being one 0-0 draw and one 1-0 win for Italy.
One England star that featured in the second fixture was Manchester City forward Phil Foden, who also started in England’s final three games in Qatar after missing out on the first XI in the opening matches. Despite Foden being able to be deployed on the wing and in midfield, Southgate has hinted he’ll continue to use the Man City star in the position he has the most experience in should get in his XI.
Meanwhile, Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who was also called up for the Nations League last year – was given a call-up for this month’s two England fixtures, too. Despite not being taken to Qatar with Newcastle’s Callum Wilson preferred instead, the Bees star now has the third best scoring record in the Premier League this season, leading Southgate to give him another chance to earn his first England cap.
When asked how he’s fitting into the England camp, Southgate said: “Very good. He’ll feel more settled in the group coming back for the second time. I’ve liked his performances with his club, he’s definitely in good form. He’s definitely not looked out of place in the training sessions but that was the same the last time he was with us [for the Nations League]. We’re happy with what he’s done.”