England manager Gareth Southgate said it was his decision to put teenager Bukayo Saka as his team’s final penalty taker in their shoot-out loss to Italy in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.
The home side, playing in their first major final since 1966, lost 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley.
Southgate also brought on Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford deep into extra time specifically to take spot-kicks, and they also both missed as England blew an early advantage in the shoot-out.
“I chose the takers,” Southgate told ITV. “I’m unbelievably disappointed not to go one step further.
“We decided to make the changes at the end of the game, but we win or lose together as a team.”
Arsenal winger Saka, who had only made five international appearances before the tournament, saw England’s final penalty saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, after Jorginho had wasted the chance to secure the title for Italy when his effort was kept out by Jordan Pickford.
“That was my decision to give him (Saka) that penalty,” said Southgate, who missed the crucial penalty when England lost in the Euro 96 semi-finals to Germany on home soil.
“We worked with them in training. It was a gamble.”
Gareth Southgate says England are ready to end their semi-final hoodoo as they prepare to face Denmark in the last four of Euro 2020, bidding to reach their first final at a major tournament since 1966.
England topped their group and beat old foes Germany in the round of 16 before ratcheting up expectations with Saturday’s thumping 4-0 quarter-final win against Ukraine in Rome.
England have fallen at the penultimate hurdle at major tournaments on four occasions since winning the World Cup in 1966, including their defeat by Croatia at the World Cup in Russia three years ago.
But Southgate believes his side have learned from that disappointment and are ready to take the next step.
“We’ve knocked off so many hoodoos or perceived barriers already and I feel like this group of players will feel this is just the next challenge,” he said.
“I guess the interesting part for us is we won’t feel totally satisfied if it’s just a semi-final for us, whereas maybe three years ago, although there was massive disappointment after the semi-final, there was a feeling we’d come a long way.
“Now we’ve replicated what we did there, but that won’t be enough to fulfil the group. That’s a positive sign.”
A key difference from 2018 is heightened expectation, with Southgate himself admitting their benchmark in Russia was to end England’s 12-year wait for a knockout victory.
The former international defender now has more knockout wins than any previous England manager and will go looking for another in Wednesday’s semi-final bolstered by a boisterous partisan crowd of 60,000-plus at Wembley.
“It’s great to be coming back now,” said Southgate, who expects teenager Bukayo Saka to return to training on Monday after missing the Ukraine match with a slight knock.
“To go and have that different environment, preparation, focus was definitely helpful. But now to be coming back to Wembley is a great thing for us.”
Southgate says going through “real-life experiences together” such as the sickening racism experienced in Montenegro and Bulgaria in Euro 2020 qualifiers has helped create a bond among his players.
Semi-final opponents Denmark have also been brought closer together following Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in their group opener. The Inter Milan player needed resuscitation on the pitch before a successful operation in hospital.
“We talk about perspective in sport but we rarely have it,” Southgate said. “This was a moment that brought it home for all of us.
“I can also imagine what it has done for the Danish team, their bond.
“We are talking about the things we have been through but what they went through that day — the way their captain was and the way the group was — and how that would have connected with their supporters. That’s pretty powerful.”
Having reached two semi-finals during his tenure England manager Gareth Southgate says he and the team will have failed if they miss out on the last four of Euro 2020.
Southgate’s side defied expectations to reach the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.
They have been drawn with Croatia, who beat them in the semi-finals of the World Cup, the Czech Republic, and old rivals Scotland.
They will have a home advantage in playing all their group games at Wembley.
“Yeah, it probably will,” said Southgate when asked whether falling short of the last four would be a failure.
“I think we’re realistic about that, we have to live with that expectation.
“Are we ready to win? Well, we’ve been to two semi-finals so the next step is to try to go further.”
Southgate — whose missed spot-kick in the Euro 96 semi-final penalty shootout proved decisive against eventual champions Germany — said it pleased him there was such a buzz in the country surrounding the team.
“We know the excitement around the team and it’s great, we’re now relevant,” said Southgate.
‘He is phenomenal’
Southgate included key players Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson in his 26-man squad despite both still recovering from injuries.
He admitted both face a battle to be fit for the opening group game against Croatia on June 13 but their presence in a young squad was a bonus.
With an average age of 25 years and three months, England will go into the tournament with one of the youngest squads.
“We know exactly where he is at,” Southgate said regarding Maguire’s availability.
“Our medical team have been with him in Manchester and he hasn’t travelled to join up with us.
“Maguire and Henderson both have a bit to do to be available but the possibility is that they can play a part and the fact is that they are such fantastic characters to have around the group.
“Henderson, with his leadership and presence, is having an effect on other people, especially the younger ones.
“Given we were able to pick 26, the opportunity to have those two with us was a straightforward one.”
One of those youngsters that could benefit from the advice of 30-year-old Henderson and Maguire, 28, is 17-year-old Jude Bellingham.
The twice-capped Borussia Dortmund midfielder will be the second-youngest England player to go to a major tournament after Theo Walcott in 2006.
“He (Bellingham) is phenomenal,” said Southgate.
“Just in training in the last couple of days, to have a 17-year-old who wants to compete with senior players, not only has the techniques but the competitiveness and maturity, he is a hugely exciting player.
“He will be an important player for England, we are not just taking him for the experience, that will be enormous for him and future England managers because I don’t see with him anything in his character that means he won’t succeed.”
Greenwood and Manchester City’s Phil Foden were omitted from Southgate’s squad on Thursday after being sent home from Iceland last month for a breach of coronavirus rules.
Ignoring the pandemic protocols, Greenwood, 19, and Foden, 20, invited local women back to the England team hotel.
“Mason is one of the top strikers of the future for England and for sure he is going to play many games for England,” Solskjaer told reporters on Friday.
“This now obviously has been a learning curve for him.
“Mason has to reflect on where he’s at and what he needs to do, how to get to where he wants to get to.”
Amid criticism from frustrated fans, United continue to be linked with a number of players in the final few days of the transfer window, most prominently Borussia Dortmund’s England international forward Jadon Sancho.
But Solskjaer refused to be drawn on why the club have so far failed to land more of their major targets, with Donny van de Beek the only arrival so far.
“I’m not going to go into the transfer window now because of course my focus is on Sunday’s game (against Tottenham) but the club’s always working hard to have the strongest possible squad,” he said.
“If something happens in or out you’ll get to know.
“We’ve got players here that we believe in. The transfer window is still open for a little while and the club has been working. They know my view and we’re here to strengthen in the long term.”
Solskjaer and Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho, the Norwegian’s immediate predecessor at Old Trafford, have traded barbs in the run-up to this weekend’ Premier League clash in Manchester.
Mourinho pointed to the number of penalties United have been awarded and Solskjaer made a dig about Spurs’ bye in the League Cup because of a spate of coronavirus cases at their opponents, League Two club Leyton Orient.
“We are in strange times at the moment and sometimes you’ve got to have a bit of fun,” said Solskjaer. “It’s just a couple of innocent comments.
“For me, Jose is a very charismatic coach. You in the media enjoy talking to him and I’ve enjoyed watching him. He’s a winner.
“I’m not one of those that really goes into all the mind games. I’ve got ultimate respect for him as a coach and of course the results and everything he has given football.”
Gareth Southgate admits England cannot be deceived by their dominant start to the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign because they will face far sterner tests than Bulgaria provided in Saturday’s 4-0 demolition at Wembley.
Harry Kane scored his second England hat-trick and also set up Raheem Sterling’s strike as Southgate’s side cemented their position on top of Group A.
With three successive victories and 14 goals to their credit, the 2018 World Cup semi-finalists already look odds-on to qualify for Euro 2020.
Their next qualifier is against second placed Kosovo, who beat the Czech Republic 2-1 earlier in the day, at Southampton on Tuesday and Southgate claims it will provide a tougher examination than lacklustre Bulgaria could manage.
But it is next year’s tournament, which features several games in England, that Southgate was looking ahead to when he conceded he learns more from training sessions than he does these routine group matches.
“We have not had the tight, tense matches that the Nations League provided as of yet, that really we learnt so much more from,” Southgate said.
“So, therefore, we’ve got to do that in training and the challenge of training has got to be so high that we learn from those moments and we can see what the players are capable of.
“We have genuine competition for places, there are five or six guys you would expect to see on the team-sheet but outside of that it’s very difficult to call.”
Southgate knows if even Bulgaria can open up the England defence — as they did twice in the first half before squandering chances — then there is plenty for his players to work on before they can dream about winning the title.
“Have we progressed? Well, I think we have. We didn’t sit back after the World Cup,” he said.
“I know that you said that the Nations League was a disappointment. Once you are in the semi-final, you want to go on and win the thing. But also with unique circumstances, in that seven players arrived 48 hours before the game.
“I think we’re competitive with probably eight teams. I think that on our day, we can beat those teams, but equally the Dutch showed (in the Nations League) that they’re capable of beating us on their day and I think it really is a tight grouping of probably eight teams.”
While Southgate keeps his players on their toes, he knows he is blessed to be able to rely on the quality provided by Tottenham striker Kane and Manchester City winger Sterling.
Kane is the first player to score 25 or more goals in his first 40 appearances for England since Gary Lineker.
The England captain opened the scoring with a simple finish from Sterling’s pass and netted two penalties either side of Sterling’s strike from Kane’s cross.
“To be able to study him and the way he works at his game, for the youngsters he’s an incredible example. In those moments he has supreme temperament and technique,” Southgate said of Kane.
Sterling was by far England’s most creative force and Southgate was quick to praise his contribution.
“I thought he was outstanding. In the first half in particular when it was hard to find space,” he said.
“He will probably have the hump he’s only got one goal today because his mindset has shifted over the last two years.”
Kane has passed Geoff Hurst and Stan Mortensen on the list of England’s all-time goal-scorers.
While that was a “proud moment”, Kane admitted emulating 1966 World Cup winner Hurst by getting his hands on silverware is his real goal.
“That’s the aim. That is what you will be judged on at the end of your career,” he said.
“It’s great to get goals but England haven’t won a trophy for a long time. That is my goal as captain.
“We had a little taste of success at the World Cup. Obviously we didn’t go all the way but we have to use that as motivation at the Euros.”
Gareth Southgate has no plans to leave the England job before Euro 2020 but admits his future is uncertain after that.
Southgate led England to their first World Cup semi-final appearance since 1990 during a memorable run in Russia last year.
That was a huge boost to his reputation and England’s progress to the inaugural Nations League Finals later this year is another feather in his cap.
The 48-year-old was linked with Manchester United before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s remarkable impact as interim boss effectively took him out of contention for the Old Trafford post.
But Southgate, whose contract runs until 2022, said he would not have walked out on the chance to manage England in a major tournament on home soil, with several matches in Euro 2020 being staged at Wembley.
“Well, first and foremost, I love the job I’m in,” Southgate said when asked about the link to United.
“I’m proud to be England manager. We’ve got a second semi-final coming this summer and a Euros at home — well, I say at home, the group stage is at home — so there is no way I’d be walking away from this.”
Southgate was less definitive when the question of his long-term future came up, hinting he would like another crack at a big club job after his disappointing spell as Middlesbrough boss.
“After those Euros, people might want me or might not want me, here or somewhere else,” he said.
“You can’t look too far ahead in football. You’re quite right, I’m contracted to 2022 — or whenever that World Cup will finish. I don’t look any further than that.
“I’m sure at some point in my life, I’ll want to go back to club football because people will say, ‘oh well he did OK as an international manager, but he didn’t work as a club manager’.
“How could you when you step out the dressing room? What do you know, really, two years into your coaching career?
“I think at this point, at some stage in the distant future, I would want to do that, but I actually don’t know, because there might be something else more important in my life and I might be doing something completely different. I think it’s too hard.”
Southgate has not worked as a club boss since being sacked by Middlesbrough soon after their 2009 relegation from the Premier League.
Aware of the unpredictability of management, former England, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender does not have a clear plan for his next move yet.
“I’ve never quite understood in this game, people who have a coaching plan or a plan of where they want to go because I didn’t expect to be the manager of Middlesbrough two days before I got offered it,” he added.
“I didn’t expect to be England senior manager six hours before I was offered it.”
England manager Gareth Southgate called on the Three Lions to live up to the expectation they have created in reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup and Nations League by delivering on home soil at Euro 2020.
Wembley will host both semi-finals and final of a tournament spread across 12 countries in 18 months time and England will also be guaranteed home advantage for at least two of their three group games as long as they negotiate what appears a comfortable qualifying group alongside the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo.
“We have high expectations over the next few years and adapting to that is probably key to our development as a team now,” said Southgate after the qualifying draw in Dublin on Sunday.
England will also learn their semi-final opponents for June’s Nations League finals in the Irish capital on Monday.
But despite the fanfare that has greeted Southgate and his side since they surpassed expectations to reach the last four in Russia, he is keen to keep feet on the ground.
“We’d lose our funding,” he joked when asked about the comparisons of finishing fourth as England did at the World Cup with the UK’s Olympic programme.
“We probably went further than we thought we would in the summer, but how do we build and progress? Dealing with expectation and pressure is part of that and ensuring the players are better for those experiences.
“Being in the latter stages of major competitions should be our aim, but we shouldn’t be arrogant in that because you can see, when teams like Germany are outside the top 10, the level of the opposition.
– Home crowd –
“But also we should get excited and should be enjoying these moments.”
Southgate knows the benefits of playing a major tournament on home soil as he was part of the England team that reached the semi-finals of Euro ’96.
“If you look at any major Olympics or football events, it brings that focus, it brings some pressures but it should be an advantage,” he added. “You have to capitalise on those moments.”
“That’s why it is not a bad thing we have to deal with expectations over the next 12-18 months.”
And the England boss is hopeful the carrot of playing in front of a home crowd at a tournament will ensure there is no complacency during the qualifying campaign.
“You want to be in the matches that matter. The motivation in qualifying is not just the game in hand but thinking about what it leads to.
“We’ve had one very enjoyable summer and the next two can be even more so if we get it right.”
Gareth Southgate has challenged his vibrant young England side to build on a year to remember after they clinched a place in the Nations League semi-finals in dramatic style.
Just over a year ago, England’s qualification for the World Cup was greeted with yawns and a barrage of paper airplanes from fans disillusioned by decades of underachievement.
But Southgate’s team won back their place in the nation’s hearts over the course of a remarkable 2018 that saw them reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990.
Although that World Cup run ended with an agonising extra-time loss to Croatia, Southgate and his players have refused to be defined by failure in the way that their more vaunted predecessors in the Three Lions shirt often were.
So when Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half of Sunday’s winner-takes-all shoot-out at Wembley, it was a coming of age moment for England’s prodigies.
They rose to the challenge in impressive style as Jesse Lingard came off the bench to equalise with 15 minutes left before captain Harry Kane poked in the 85th-minute winner.
Kane and his team-mates celebrated joyously as Wembley roared in delight and a jubilant Southgate punched the air on the touchline.
The harmonious scene was a fitting finale to England’s year of redemption and a far cry from the 1-0 win over Slovenia in October 2017 that ensured they would qualify for the World Cup.
That uninspiring display came while Southgate’s revolution was still taking shape, played out to a soundtrack of bored fans cheering when the paper airplanes they were launching from the stands made it to the pitch.
Slammed as “lifeless, uninspired and mediocre” by one match report after the Slovenia game, England went to the World Cup with expectations at an all-time low.
But Southgate was gradually winning the hearts and minds of his players with his astute man-management and progressive game-plans.
The modest England manager credits his squad for keeping a humble approach amid all the recent plaudits, all the while keeping their focus on the next opponent.
“You can only have that consistency if you work on things every day and have the humility to go back to work,” he said.
“The World Cup was far bigger (than the Nations League) but you have to look at the next challenge. This was a great opportunity to test ourselves against top teams.”
Even that drab Slovenia match foreshadowed the revival stirring beneath the surface as it was a late Kane goal that sealed the points.
Fast forward 13 months and another last-gasp Kane winner produced far more euphoria.
“He is the best goalscorer in the world. You are always loath to take off a player of that ability,” Southgate said.
“His hold-up play, as well as the goals he brings, is critical. He is so hungry to lead the team even further.”
Southgate’s commitment to allowing England’s young talents to express themselves has paid rich dividends with Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Ross Barkley, Ben Chilwell and Joe Gomez all delivering mature contributions to England’s success.
Having established England as a force to be reckoned with, Southgate’s next task is to maintain their progress, with an eye on ending their wait for a first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
He believes the momentum England have established on and off the pitch will prove invaluable as they head into a period that includes the start of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and then the Nations League Finals.
“Next year now looks like a really exciting time to be involved with England,” Southgate said.
“That feeling around the team is really powerful and we have to build on that. Everybody who has played for us wants to be part it.”
Displaying the self-deprecating touch that has won him so many admirers, Southgate laughed off suggestions that he has given England their pride back.
“We may be a new England but we scored from a long throw and a free-kick, so maybe nothing changes!” he smiled.
Gareth Southgate defended the decision to honour Wayne Rooney by fielding England’s top international goalscorer in a friendly against the USA at Wembley next week.
The Football Association announced on Sunday that Rooney would be awarded his 120th cap as a tribute to his England career which appeared to have come to an end when he retired from international football in August 2017.
That decision has been criticised in the English media with a number of exciting young prospects needing more game time to be tested at the international level and the USA game seen as preparation for what could be a crucial Nations League decider against Croatia four days later.
“I am still able to look to the future in terms of the squad we have picked,” insisted Southgate.
“But also I have talked a lot to the players about the importance of the shirt, the history of the shirt, honouring the former players, and I think all the players would respect that Wayne’s contribution deserves the best possible send-off.
“I understand that has caused debate but for me it is a small way of appreciating what he has given to his country.”
Rooney, 33, scored 53 goals in his previous 119 caps. However, he failed to carry his country to the level of success they enjoyed under Southgate at the World Cup this year by reaching the semi-finals.
The former Manchester United captain has starred for DC United since moving to Major League Soccer in June.
But Southgate confirmed that Rooney wouldn’t start the match or wear the number 10 shirt, but could be handed the captain’s armband as a substitute.
“He won’t wear number 10 because he won’t start the game,” added Southgate.
“When he came on in his last game, Jordan Henderson ran over and gave him the armband. I guess that it will depend on the circumstances of the game and the players who are out there but I have no issue with that.”
Wilson called up
Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson is rewarded for his fine start to the campaign with a first England call-up among a bumper 28-man squad named on Thursday.
No English player has scored more than Wilson’s six Premier League goals so far this season.
“He’s a threat in terms of running in behind defences. He’s been involved with either scoring or assists, with a high number of goals this season, so it’s a good opportunity for us to have a look at him and see how he fits into what we do,” said Southgate.
After beating Spain 3-2 in Seville last month, England could progress to the semi-finals of the inaugural Nations League with a victory over Croatia if Spain fail to win in Zagreb on November 15.
Squad in full:
Marcus Bettinelli (Fulham), Jack Butland (Stoke City), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Michael Keane (Everton), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Harry Winks (Tottenham Hotspur)
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (DC United/USA), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).
England manager Gareth Southgate resisted the temptation to hand 18-year-old Jadon Sancho his international debut as the Three Lions seek a measure of revenge against Croatia in the Nations League on Friday.
Just three months on since Croatia beat England to reach the World Cup final for the first time, the sides meet again looking for their first points in the Nations League after both were defeated by Spain last month.
Sancho has been in stunning form for Borussia Dortmund to earn his first call-up to the senior side but is left on the bench alongside fellow newcomers James Maddison and Mason Mount.
Ross Barkley makes his first England appearance since May 2016 as Southgate looks set to ditch the 3-5-2 system that worked so well in Russia for a 4-3-3 with Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford flanking Harry Kane up front.
FIFA’s world player of the year Luka Modric captains Croatia.
But the hosts won’t be able to count on any support in their first home match since the World Cup with the game being played behind closed doors in Rijeka.
Croatia are completing a UEFA sanction to play two games behind closed doors after a swastika symbol was carved into the pitch during a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy in June 2015.
Gareth Southgate has been rewarded for guiding England to this year’s World Cup semi-finals with a new contract, the Football Association (FA) announced on Thursday.
The 48-year-old’s new deal will see him through to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and see his pay rise to a reported £3million ($3.9million) per year.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead the national team through the next two major tournaments,” said Southgate, whose previous deal was due to expire after the Euro 2020 finals.
“The job remains an incredible privilege and a true honor. Experiencing at first hand how the nation united behind the team this summer was something special and it will be great to see how far this young squad can go in the years to come.”
Southgate, who ultimately saw England beaten 2-1 by Croatia in their first World Cup semi-final since 1990, said he was fortunate to have a great backup team — his assistant Steve Holland was also awarded a new contract, and the players performing on the pitch.
“I must acknowledge the hard work and commitment of my staff and the players over the last two years,” said Southgate.
“I have learned a great deal from them and their passion and professionalism in representing England have been an inspiration to my own work.”
FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn said Southgate, who replaced Sam Allardyce after he left under a cloud only 67 days into the role in 2016, had restored genuine optimism in England’s ability to be a viable contender for trophies.
“Securing Gareth on a longer-term contract was always a priority for us,” said Glenn.
“He has performed remarkably well and has given everyone the belief that England can compete on a world stage again.”
Gareth Southgate pledged to stick to his principles after Spain delivered an uncomfortable reality check at Wembley but admitted he was unsure whether England had time to become genuine Euro 2020 challengers.
England were surprise World Cup semi-finalists in July, riding a wave of euphoria back home, but their 2-1 Nations League defeat on Saturday was their third consecutive loss.
Even during their morale-boosting run in Russia, manager Southgate warned there was still work to do and the performance at Wembley underlined that message.
Marcus Rashford struck early for England but Saul Niguez levelled for Spain moments later and Rodrigo scored the winning goal later in the first half.
Substitute Danny Welbeck saw a stoppage-time leveller controversially ruled out, meaning England head into Tuesday’s friendly against Switzerland reeling from three successive defeats in all competitions for the first time since 1988.
Spain, who bowed out in the World Cup last-16 after a torrid campaign, nevertheless showed the benefits of a long-established identity and a level of creativity sorely lacking in England’s midfield.
Southgate said he was unsure whether his side could close the gap to the top teams before the next European Championship, in which the semi-finals and final will be played at Wembley.
“I think we’ve got some players who can and have shown tonight they can perform at that level, and there’s some that are still a work in progress,” he said.
“We have got 19 matches, it’s not very long, but, in my opinion, we have got the best group of players in the country here.
“I think we have got to keep faith in the way we’re trying to play, otherwise we go back to what we did historically and there’s no way I believe we’ll ever be a top team if we do that,” Southgate added.
Southgate plans to rotate his side at the King Power Stadium in Leicester and intends to bring in reinforcements from the Under-21s squad.
Manchester United defender Luke Shaw left the field on a stretcher against Spain after a heavy fall but said he was “doing fine”.
Tottenham full-back Kieran Trippier said there was no reason for alarm despite the defeat, which follows losses to Croatia in the last four in Russia and to Belgium in the third-place play-off.
“It is not a concern,” he said. “We are building and that is all we can do, play against these teams. We want to test ourselves against the best and certainly tonight we put up a fight.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult game. These are the teams we want to play against.”