'It was surreal' - Kalvin Phillips makes England admission as Leeds United man prepares for Euros clash with Ukraine
Kalvin Phillips may be surprised at his own England involvement but the Leeds United man is relishing each second.
The Whites academy product has been one of the breakout stars for his nation at this summer’s delayed European Championship.
Head coach Gareth Southgate has relied on Phillips in every single minute of Three Lions action so far with the United midfielder putting in four assured performances.
He opened up his Euros involvement by providing a match-winning assist against Croatia at Wembley in the opening group fixture.
A draw with Scotland and a win over the Czech Republic in the capital followed before a knockout showdown with Germany – a game which tests the resolve of any player from these shores.
The Yorkshire Pirlo, as he is affectionately known, still had doubters despite his growing international credentials ahead of the clash with Joachim Low’s side.
Questions from those outside the England camp were quick to ask whether his partnership with West Ham’s Declan Rice was good enough for the national team.
Eleven ball recoveries, four duels won, 60 touches and 45 successful passes along with 11 kilometres of ground covered gave a resounding answer by Phillips in the 2-0 victory.
“It was surreal,” Phillips said of England’s win over their historic foe.
“We knew how important the game was going to be. Germany are a good team and with the history of everything too.
“After the game we were all buzzing. I think Harry Maguire came in with his man of the match trophy and everyone started singing his song.
“And then Raz [Raheem Sterling] came in and we started singing for him.
"It was just nice. It was just a good day. I’m obviously surprised at how well I’m doing. I didn’t think I’d be doing this well but I’ve got very good players around me and good coaches.
“It’s helping me settle in a little bit better.”
Goals from Sterling and skipper Harry Kane sparked wild scenes of celebration in the stands of England’s home ground.
Rarely have there been such celebrations on the terraces for an international game but in North London the roof was blown off when Jack Grealish found the Three Lions captain with room to spare.
“The atmosphere we experienced in the Germany game was out of this world,” Phillips smiled.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it, especially after the first goal. Even the second goal was ridiculous.
“At full-time I remember watching the interview with Harry Kane where everyone was singing Sweet Caroline and it just gives you goosebumps.”
England’s toppling of Germany has given the country renewed belief that a run to the final and even – whisper it quietly – that the trophy might be a real possibility.
A clash with Ukraine, though, awaits tonight and it will be the first time Southgate’s men have had to travel outside of their comfort zone in the tournament.
A trip to the Italian capital is for business – not pleasure – and for Phillips it has been important to come down quickly off a major high and refocus for a quarter-final clash.
“For me it’s quite easy because it’s the first time we’ve played Germany. I didn’t know what it was like in the past,” he continued.
“Obviously we want to go far in this tournament so we have to push that to one side with all the celebrations and go again against Ukraine.
“We’re looking forward to it. It’ll be a tough game like always and we’re playing at a decent stadium which will be nice.”
Andriy Shevchenko’s men secured passage in extra-time against Sweden at Hampden Park and are in unknown territory having reached the last eight.
Ukraine offers a different challenge to the one of Germany – with familiar faces in Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zincheko and West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko.
Past England teams know all too well about getting ahead of themselves in knockout competitions and Phillips says they won’t be taking their counterparts lightly.
“They have great players,” he concluded.
“A few of the lads know them personally. It’s one of those games where you have to try and keep them quiet and stop them doing what they’re good at.
“If we do that then I’m pretty sure we can come away with a win.
“We’re going over to Rome and we know there won’t be as many fans but it’s about getting the result to bring it back here to Wembley for the semi-finals.”