Southgate takes positives as England lift gloom after 'difficult moment'

football26 September 2022 23:05| © Reuters

It was not exactly a display that will have England's World Cup rivals quaking in their boots but the final 20 minutes of Monday's thrilling 3-3 Nations League draw with Germany at least muted some of the criticism aimed at manager Gareth Southgate.

With 71 minutes on the clock England were trailing 2-0 and appeared to be signing off for the tournament which starts in Qatar in November mired in a mounting crisis of confidence.

They were heading for a sixth successive competitive match without a win – their worst run for more than 100 years – or even a goal from open play in that dire sequence.

But suddenly everything clicked into place with goals from Luke Shaw, substitute Mason Mount and a penalty by Harry Kane set to pluck an unlikely win from the jaws of defeat.

Kai Havertz's second goal for Germany in the 87th minute put something of a dampener on the Wembley party but Southgate still took plenty of positives before he selects his World Cup squad, not least an impressive display by midfielder Jude Bellingham.

There are still plenty of questions to answer – namely defender Harry Maguire's struggles and England's tendency to play with the handbrake on – but Southgate insists he will not be deviating from the trusted formula that took his side to the World Cup semifinals in 2018 and the Euro 2020 final.

"We should have been ahead with the chances we created and then suddenly it's 2-0 and we are in a difficult moment," Southgate, who has come under fire with England relegated from Nations League Group A3 with three points, told reporters.

"But the crowd stayed with us and didn't get on our backs and then the roof came off when we scored and we all remembered what it feels like when a goal goes in.

"So there is a lot to take from it but then we got the punch on the nose at the end which is how it's going for us."

Southgate revealed that the players had organised a meeting among themselves last week to talk over where things have been going wrong of late, saying it was a sign of leadership.

"The best football teams need outstanding leaders from the coaching staff, but they also need a real core of players that drive things," he said, adding that for many of his squad their bad run was something they had never experienced with England.

"We're all learning together and in these moments we have to stick to what we're doing. We weren't going to rip things up tonight and make eight changes and start throwing everything up in the air because we believe in what we're doing."

While England's poor recent run has tempered optimism ahead of the World Cup, Southgate said they were not the only nation struggling for form in the build up, with Germany having won only once in their last seven matches.

"Everybody's got the same challenge and it's a really strange period because so many teams are a little bit up in the air really," the England coach added.