England: Gareth Southgate gives verdict on getting Euro 2024 ref who had match-fixing ban | Football | Sport

England manager Gareth Southgate has batted away the concern surrounding UEFA’s appointment of referee Felix Zwayer for Wednesday’s Euro 2024 semi-final against the Netherlands. Zwayer’s controversial past, including a row with Jude Bellingham, has resurfaced ahead of the crunch clash in Dortmund.

England are set to face the Netherlands at the Westfalenstadion for a spot in Sunday’s final against France or Spain.

But the build-up has been dominated by UEFA’s decision to appoint Zwayer as the referee and his history with Bellingham.

The German official was banned for six months in 2005 after accepting a £250 bribe from fellow referee Robert Hoyzer.

His punishment was considered lenient after he clearly acknowledged his error by reporting the alleged bribe and because of his otherwise clean track record.

But the offence returned to centre stage three years ago when Bellingham, then a Borussia Dortmund player, fumed with his decisions in a match against Bayern Munich.

After full-time, he vented: “You give a referee that has match-fixed before the biggest game in Germany? What do you expect?”

Bellingham, who joined Real Madrid in an £89million deal last summer, was fined £34,000 for his comments, while Zwayer took two months of leave in the aftermath.

The pair will meet again on Wednesday night, but Southgate has poured cold water over any idea that England are unhappy about UEFA’s decision.

“I think everyone who knows me knows I deal with referees with complete respect,” Southgate explained on Tuesday.

“I know UEFA appreciate the respect we have shown referees over eight years. There is a right way to conduct yourself towards officials.

“I am not concerned who the referee is. He will be at a very high standard because that is what UEFA demand.”

The Netherlands’ preparations for the semi-final have been hampered after Ronald Koeman and his squad’s journey to Dortmund was delayed.

But Southgate smiled as he also played down suggestions that having to use a later flight on Tuesday rather than their planned train won’t impact their performance.

He said: “We don’t play until nine tomorrow night. And I’m sure they’ll still get dinner tonight. I don’t see it having any impact on the game.”

Spain, still boasting a 100 per cent record at the tournament, and France first do battle for a place in the Berlin final on Tuesday night.

England would likely be the underdogs against whichever nation comes out on top at Munich’s Allianz Arena, but they still have work to do to reach a second successive Euros final.

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