Soccer-Southgate hopes to deliver in what could be his final tournament with England

Euro 2024 - England Training

By Lori Ewing

WEIMAR, Germany (Reuters) - If Gareth Southgate is feeling the pressure of delivering England's first European Championship in what many have speculated could be his final major tournament in charge, the 53-year-old manager is not showing it.

The Three Lions play Serbia on Sunday in Gelsenkirchen in a Euro 2024 that could be a defining moment of Southgate's career.

"I'm probably more relaxed about it because I have had previous experience of three before this one," said Southgate, who coached England at a pair of World Cups either side of the 2020 Euros, where England lost to Italy in the final, and played in the 1996 and 2000 Euros.

"I know the issues we have to deal with and the pathway we have to navigate. I'm very fortunate to have great players and a great staff and I'm really looking forward to the start of this tournament."

Southgate's contract expires after this tournament and while he recently told German newspaper BILD: "If we don't win, I probably won't be here anymore," there have been reports that the Football Association would like him to stay and lead England into the 2026 World Cup.

Asked if Germany could be his final appearance in the Three Lions dugout, a smiling Southgate told a press conference on the eve of their curtain-raiser: "I don't want to put pressure on the other coaches here but it could be the last tournament for all of them as well. This is the world we live in."

Southgate has assembled an intriguing and richly talented team around veteran goal-scorer Harry Kane and talented midfielder Jude Bellingham, and included 12 players with no major tournament experience. A dozen players from the 2022 World Cup squad are also absent.

The rebuilt group that suffered a shocking 1-0 loss to Iceland in their final send-off game begs numerous questions. How well will the pieces fall into place? What does the back four look like, particularly since an injury excluded veteran Harry Maguire from the squad and also-injured Luke Shaw has not played since February? How will Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold adapt to playing as a creative midfielder?

England are about to find out and Southgate is well aware of what is at stake.

"I've been in the job eight years. I understand the landscape. Everybody who has been in this job has experienced the same thing," he said. "I just try to prepare the team in the best manner possible."

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; editing by Clare Fallon)