Gareth Southgate acknowledged heightened England expectations contributed to a drab start at Euro 2024, as he called for a fearless Three Lions in Wednesday's semi-final against the Netherlands.

England were unconvincing en route to topping Group C, scraping past Serbia before back-to-back draws with Denmark and Slovenia.

Southgate's side again needed some fortune in the last 16, levelling through Jude Bellingham's remarkable 95th-minute overhead kick before Harry Kane sealed victory in extra time.

Though a penalty shoot-out victory was required to see off Switzerland in the last eight, where England trailed late one before Bukayo Saka's sumptuous equaliser, Southgate believes that showing was an improvement.

"One of our strengths over the years has been having less fear, showing less inhibition but at the beginning of the tournament the expectation weighed heavily and the noise from outside had never been louder," the England manager said ahead of Wednesday's meeting with the Netherlands in Dortmund.

"We couldn't quite get ourselves in the right place. What was impressive in the end was that we ground it out and found ways to win.

"I thought that shifted against the Swiss, you saw a freer version of us on the ball. The group changed, if not the messaging.

"Now it's about what is possible and not what might go wrong. This is now the chance to make history. We are trying to break new ground and that is not easy but the players have been resilient."

England will be aiming to become just the sixth instance of a side reaching back-to-back Euros finals, having lost in the delayed 2020 edition to Italy.

Though the core of Kane, Declan Rice, John Stones and Jordan Pickford remain from that defeat, the likes of Ivan Toney, Eberechi Eze and Kobbie Mainoo are all new faces for the Three Lions.

"I am very fortunate to have a fabulous group of players, we work as a team and we always have," Southgate added.

"We review what we could do better as a coaching team as well as what the players could do, we are very open about that.

"The way the 26 have bonded in the last few weeks has been special, half of the squad have had no tournament experience. We've got 21 of the players onto the pitch with no dead rubbers and that has made people even more connected."

Another selection decision awaits Southgate, who must choose between recalling Luke Shaw for his first start since mid-February or backing makeshift left-back Kieran Trippier again.

Shaw impressed in a short cameo during the quarter-final against Switzerland, though his fitness remains a concern for England.

"Luke Shaw has been injured for four months, it wasn't a possibility for him to play until the last match where he made a good contribution," Southgate continued.

"We have to decide if he is ready to start but we are very happy to have him back.

"He gives us balance, but Kieran Trippier has done a fantastic job. He has had many important nights with us over the last seven or eight years. He's great around the squad, we are very fortunate to have players like him in our squad."