England will show “complete respect” to referee despite match-fixing concerns, says Southgate

The buildup to England’s EURO2024 semifinal clash with the Netherlands has been dominated by the appointment of Felix Zwayer as referee, after the German official was the subject of a Jude Bellingham rant in 2021.

Zwayer, who had previously been found guilty of involvement in a match-fixing scandal, failed to award Borussia Dortmund a penalty during their die Klassiker tie with Bayern Munich – and Bellingham made sure his concerns were heard in a post-match flash interview.

Speaking on Tuesday ahead of the EURO2024 last-four tie in Dortmund, Gareth Southgate insists he is “not concerned” about Zwayer being the man in the middle.

What did Gareth Southgate say?

 “I think everybody knows how to deal with referees, with complete respect,” Southgate expressed in his pre-match press conference, immediately insisting that Zwayer’s previous history with Bellingham will not affect the match.

“I know the two guys at UEFA have been running the referees programme and I think they appreciate how we’ve conducted ourselves towards officials and it’s important to the game. I’m not concerned about the referee, so for me it’s not even a consideration.”

(Photo by Christof Koepsel – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Estimates suggest that England fans could be outnumbered significantly in Dortmund, though Southgate suggested that “our players are used to it. The atmosphere in the stadiums has been great this tournament and it’s added a different feel and intesity to the games.”

“I’m sure our fans will make themselves heard and it will be a colourful occasion. These occasions are why we’re involved in football, and we’re looking forward to stepping up.”

Southgate’s choice of left-back could prove to be an interesting topic for discussion come Wednesday evening. Luke Shaw is back in contention for the Three Lions, and Southgate expressed that the squad are “very happy to have him back.”

“He obviously gives us a different balance with the team but also Kieran [Trippier] has done a fantastic job. He’s played in so many important nights for us… he’s been so important in those occasions but also around the squad. We’re very fortunate to have players like him in our squad.”

What did Harry Kane say?

For Harry Kane, Wednesday’s test against the Netherlands is all about making England’s experience count.

“We have a lot of players who have experienced big games on a club and international level. Tomorrow will be no different. Step by step, we’ve been getting closer to our target and during the game you lean on experiences and lean on players who’ve been there.”

“We’ve put ourselves in a great spot and we have an opportunity to make it to back-to-back European finals,” he added.

The Dutch frontline could prove lethal in Dortmund, and Kane was steadfast in his belief as he expressed that the threat level remains high regardless of who starts.

Speaking about Cody Gakpo and Memphis Depay, Kane said: “They’re two totally different strikers – whoever plays, or if they both play, they both bring something different to the Dutch team.”

“From our point of view, we’ll always analyse the other team, where they can hurt us and where we need to be careful. They’re two really good strikers, playing at a high level.”

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