Soccer-England players love Southgate, Shaw says

BLANKENHAIN, Germany (Reuters) - Gareth Southgate is exactly what England need as a leader and he has instilled a sense of togetherness in a team who have grown stronger during Euro 2024 and have never been more motivated, defender Luke Shaw said on Monday.

Southgate is an outstanding man-manager who has the admiration of the players and was undeserving of criticism over England's stuttering run in Germany, Shaw said ahead of the semi-final against Netherlands on Wednesday.

"He really took us to the next level, no manager has really been as successful as him as what he's been doing recently," Shaw told a press conference.

"It's now another semi-final and for me and us as players we love him. I think he's really good, he's exactly what we need."

"He knows how to manage his players and what their needs are and it's clear as day for me ... the real togetherness that we have inside that squad is really around what Gareth created and is what helps us dig deep in these games."

Left back Shaw missed England's first five games due to injury but is now fit, raring to go and keen to repay Southgate for standing by him.

He said he felt no pressure when he made his first appearance in the tournament with England 12 minutes away from quarter-final elimination by the Swiss, and found it more nerve-wracking watching games from the bench.

RESULT ALL THAT MATTERS

Although England have underwhelmed with a string of mediocre performances in Germany, their recent record is remarkable, with Southgate taking his side to the semi-finals in three of the past four big tournaments.

Wednesday's match in Dortmund is a chance for England to reach their third major final and first on foreign soil, against Spain or France.

Shaw said England's stuttering progress through the tournament had tested their resilience and the squad was as tight-knit as it had ever been.

"Whether you play good or bad football, the important thing is winning games," he said.

"Whether people like it or not, the way were playing, we're in the semi-final and that's all that matters."

Shaw played a vital role in the Euro 2020 final when he fired England ahead with a superb strike after two minutes against Italy in London, only to lose in a penalty shootout, which he said was the worst he has ever felt.

"We have to have belief. The belief is definitely building with the last two games but it's down to us to deliver that on the pitch," he added.

"The motivation is massive... We're not there yet in the final we still got one massive game against a very top opposition. But yes of course the hunger and the motivation is at its highest and yes we're ready."

(Reporting by Martin Petty, editing by Ed Osmond)