Pressure is off so England can thrive - Southgate

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Former England defender Gareth Southgate feels Roy Hodgson’s side can “express themselves” without the burden of expectation at Euro 2012.

The England squad fly to Poland free from the mass hysteria which has surrounded previous major tournaments - most of which ended in disappointment.

Hodgson, appointed successor to Fabio Capello ahead of the European Championship, has told his squad to relax as they prepare to tackle the likes of Sweden, France and co-hosts Ukraine following a final warm-up game against Belgium at Wembley on Saturday.

Southgate - who won 57 caps and played in two European Championships as well as the 1998 World Cup - believes such an approach could help bring the best out of England.

“This group of players are probably as talented as many of the teams we have sent, but because of the disappointments in recent years, the public have got a realism about it,” said Southgate, speaking at a coaching session with the Carlsberg Pub Cup winners in London.

“Hopefully that can allow England to go and express themselves. If they get a bit of momentum, then the country will get behind them, rather than being very quick to criticise.”

Southgate, the head of elite development at the Football Association, believes Holland could be a force to be reckoned with again this summer, having come up short against Spain at the World Cup.

“The Dutch squad has Robin van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, there is a lot of talent in that squad,” said Southgate.

“They are probably also still smarting from getting to the World Cup final and not playing at the level they would have liked to.

“Germany also have some outstanding young players, and it is about the team who can turn it on for those three weeks.”