England boss Gareth Southgate has risked facing the wrath of Three Lions fans after claiming a 1-0 defeat by Italy was ‘a step in the right direction’ ahead of the World Cup. Southgate insisted that he could not be too critical of a display in which his side struggled to break down their Euro 2020 final nemesis.
The 52-year-old saw his side struggle at San Siro, having just four shots on target. It was England’s fifth game in a row without a win – a run that includes four defeats.
England have now been relegated from League A of the Nations League having been beaten by each Italy, Germany and Hungary. A final clash with the Germans comes on Monday, but this was hardly the type of form Southgate would have wanted heading into the World Cup.
The Three Lions boss has insisted that his team’s display against Italy was a step forward from a summer in which they suffered four dismal losses. A 4-0 thumping by Hungary headlined a set of results that left Southgate with plenty to ponder with only one international break remaining before he selects a squad to travel to Qatar.
“I personally felt the performance was a step in the right direction. But I appreciate -because of the result – that it won’t be the reaction,” Southgate after the latest reverse against Italy, which was sealed by Giacomo Raspadori’s second-half strike.
“It is difficult for me to be too critical of the performance: we had more possession, more shots, more shots on target.” Some supporters booed Southgate as he applauded the travelling fans at San Siro. It comes after sections of the crowd at the 4-0 defeat by Hungary in June called for him to be sacked.
However, Southgate described that as an ‘emotional’ reaction to another defeat, batting away suggestions that he is now under pressure.
“I understand the reaction at the end, as that’s the results we’ve had. It’s an emotional reaction,” he added.
“There’ll be a lot of noise but that will be around me and that is absolutely fine. It’s my job to take that pressure for them.”
England have one final Nations League game against Germany on Monday. Southgate will then pick the team he thinks has the best chance of winning the World Cup in Qatar.
The Three Lions begin the tournament against Iran on November 21. There are unlikely to be any warm-up friendlies due to the congested club fixture schedule.