Europe

Sir Geoff Hurst: Final will be great – just like 1966

Harry Redknapp on supporting 'all home nations' at Euro 2020

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Sir Geoff, who stood on the top of a London Eye pod yesterday to get a great view of Wembley, is in no doubt of the impact the current manager is having on the team. He said he had been impressed by the way Southgate had dealt with pressure and stuck to his plans throughout the tournament, despite calls for him to make changes. The World Cup winner said: “You have got to start with Gareth Southgate because, as in our time Sir Alf Ramsey was instrumental then and deserved a lot of the credit, Gareth does today. He is honing them into a team and got them mentally and physically fit. We’re all very proud of them. It has been a fantastic amount of games (won) so far.”

The Three Lions are facing Italy at Wembley tomorrow night in their first major final in 55 years after beating Denmark 2-1 in extra time on Wednesday night to book their place.

England have never played in a European Championship final and will be looking to win what will be only their second piece of major silverware after the 1966 World Cup.

Sir Geoff, 79, says he still gets fan mail from across the globe for his achievements more than five decades ago.

And he describes winning with England as life changing.

“The enjoyment, of winning a World Cup in your own country, simply lasts forever,” he said.

“Hardly a day goes by, almost daily and just as much today as weeks or months after winning it that the euphoria is still there and the memories of it are brought up by someone.

“It’s astonishing really what happened back then is still affecting my life even today.” Meanwhile England defender John Stones, 27, yesterday called on fans of the Three Lions to roar one final time this tournament, saying: “We hope we do them proud on Sunday.”

He added: “We’ve definitely thrived off the fans and I suppose we’re living their dream right at the front out on the pitch and we can’t thank them enough for all their support through the tough times and through the good times.

“They turn up every game no matter where we are and the support is deeply appreciated by us as players.

“We’re proud to represent them, represent the country.

“We hope we do them proud and do everyone proud on Sunday. Turn up and make a lot of noise for us.”

And Raheem Sterling, 26, left, the big star of England’s run to the final, added: “The support and energy from all the fans have been incredible, both at Wembley and with everyone watching at home. Bring on Sunday under the arches.”

Midfield star Phil Foden, 21, said England must stay focused as they prepare for the final, despite the emotion that comes with playing in such a huge game.

He said: “There are going to be so many emotions with the fans.

“The players have to stay focused and treat it like the first game of the tournament.”

Meanwhile, Sir Geoff said of tomorrow’s game: “What are our chances? Good. We have got a very good team, we’ve been doing very well – well managed – and right from the start I’ve felt we had a good bunch of players, a lot of very good young players.

“I always felt we had a chance and that hasn’t changed.

“I always felt right from the beginning the team that beat Italy would win it because they are very strong as well.

“I think the best two teams are in the final. Playing against a great country in Italy, and a great footballing nation, it should be a great final. I predict it is going to be a very tight game between two fantastic teams.”

He added: “I can’t see a 4-2 score line like we saw in ’66. That would be a big shock really. You can’t see either team conceding that amount of goals.”

Prince William, inset right, who is president of the Football Association, will be at Wembley for the showpiece final.

The Duke of Cambridge has witnessed much of England’s journey through the tournament at close quarters, having cheered the Three Lions to victory at the stadium in north London on multiple occasions already.

Former West Ham player and manager Sir Trevor Brooking said yesterday: “You’ve got to believe. Italy are a really strong side and knocking Belgium out and then Spain shows
their quality.

“England, in front of a home crowd at Wembley, are going to be tough to beat. It is going to be a fantastic occasion.

“We’ve got a lot of talent coming through.

“I hope Sunday is the one, but I guarantee that we’ll be there or there about in the next 10 years.”

Former England boss Roy Hodgson said: “I think the whole squad has been quite fantastic. It’s amazing you can go through a tournament and there’s not one player who hasn’t come out covered in glory.

“We are a critical nation in terms of football because it means so much to us.

“But after each game played there has been nothing but praise showered on the players, including the substitutes.”

Meanwhile, on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, host Kate Garraway, showed her excitement by donning a patriotic wig.

And actor James Norton joked that he would like to play Harry Maguire in a film about England’s rise to the Euro 2020 final. The Grantchester actor said: There’s an inherent drama to the build-up [of matches].”

Then, when asked who he would play in any movie should England win, he said: “Physically, Harry Maguire. “I guess I’m quite tall and I feel like I could be a big defender – I’m nearly 6ft 2in so I’ve got a head on me.”

Supermarkets across the country have also thrown their support behind the England team by giving workers time off to watch the match and cheer them on.

England’s 1,600 Tesco Express stores will close at 7.45pm instead of midnight.

Co-op’s 2,034 food stores in England will also shut then, with its 24-hour petrol stations re-opening at 11pm.

And Lidl’s stores will open an hour later on Monday if England win. The company said: “Shoppers and staff alike are likely to appreciate a Lidl extra time first thing.”

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