Gareth Southgate, the composed helm of England’s national team, brushed off concerns over his squad’s subdued performance following a subdued 2-0 win against Malta.
Despite acknowledging his players’ lack of fervor during the match, Southgate remains resolute that England’s motivation won’t falter heading into Euro 2024.
England’s secured status as top seeds for the upcoming tournament didn’t quite translate to a high-octane display against Malta.
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With qualification from Group C already in the bag, Southgate candidly admitted his side didn’t push the envelope, securing victory through an Enrico Pepe own goal and a late Harry Kane strike.
However, Southgate remains unflustered, pointing out the imminent shift in mindset when England squares off against the likes of Brazil and Belgium in March’s friendlies.
“It’s not a worry,” he assured. “This week was always going to be difficult. We’ve already qualified. We were flat, I accept that.”
Yet, Southgate pinpointed areas for improvement, highlighting England’s lack of fluidity on the ball and vulnerability when dispossessed.
“We didn’t start well,” he acknowledged, emphasizing the challenge of regaining momentum once lost.
The match’s intricacies were encapsulated by a contentious moment involving Harry Kane, booked for a perceived dive in the box.
Southgate defended Kane, believing a penalty should have been awarded after a challenge by Malta’s goalkeeper, Henry Bonello.
Kane, steadfast in his denial of simulation, expressed surprise at the decision.
“Sometimes the VAR doesn’t want to interfere too much,” he reflected, accepting the verdict as an inherent aspect of the game.
The injury concerns with Marcus Rashford and Conor Gallagher’s tactical substitution at half-time did raise slight alarms, while Fikayo Tomori felt the brunt of forceful challenges during the game.
As England prepares to wrap up their qualification campaign against North Macedonia, Southgate remains resolute in his trust in the team’s ability to elevate their performance when the stakes heighten.
The quest for excellence continues, with Southgate steering the Three Lions toward a more commanding display on the international stage.