Top spot, Kane record, boo boys – Highs and Lows for Southgate’s England in 2023

By Sports Desk November 21, 2023

England have had their ups and relative downs as Gareth Southgate’s men qualified for next summer’s Euros and went through 2023 unbeaten.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the highs and lows from England’s eight wins and two draws across the year.

HIGHS

Opening qualification win in Italy

Southgate’s men put their 2022 World Cup frustration behind them by kicking off European qualification with victory at reigning champions Italy in March.

Harry Kane became England’s all-time record goalscorer by striking home a penalty after Declan Rice opened the scoring in Naples, before Mateo Retegui pulled one back.

Luke Shaw’s sending-off for two bookings in quick succession made for a nervy final 10 minutes but England held out for a 2-1 win – their first away to Italy since 1961.

Inspired Saka marmalises Macedonia

Bukayo Saka scored a jaw-dropping first career hat-trick in June as rampant England roared to a 7-0 victory against North Macedonia in a surprise end to the 2022-23 campaign.

Kane struck twice in an Old Trafford annihilation that also saw Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips get in on the act, but ever-improving talent Saka was the star of the show.

Stirring success in Scotland

Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Kane fired England to a 3-1 victory as Scotland were given the runaround by the Auld Enemy at Hampden Park in September.

Southgate was delighted with his players’ commitment, togetherness and mentality in the so-called friendly as they followed up a 1-1 draw against Ukraine in Poland by beating Steve Clarke’s side on a night when Harry Maguire recovered from an own goal and an evening of abuse from the home crowd.

LOWS

Meek Malta win

England were poor in patches in away to Ukraine and struggled to break down Macedonia as their final group game also ended 1-1, but it was Friday’s win against Malta that most disappointed.

An expectant Wembley crowd resorted to paper planes and Mexican waves to entertain themselves in a 2-0 victory that lacked excitement.

Southgate admitted afterwards that he suspected players had subconsciously let their foot off the gas against the side 171st in the world.

Boo boys

During his seven years in charge, Southgate can be rightly proud of the way the fan-base and squad have reconnected.

A few supporters were heard booing Southgate and Jordan Henderson after Monday’s draw in Skopje, with the latter also jeered by England fans in both Wembley appearances since his controversial summer switch to Saudi Arabia.

Travelling fans at Hampden threw their support behind Maguire, who has been booed by pockets of his own fan-base in previous years, but the Manchester United defender was hounded by Scotland fans – treatment labelled by Southgate as “ridiculous”, “a joke” and “beyond anything I’ve ever seen”.

Left-back limitations

England are blessed with options at right-back but they lack alternatives on the other side. Luke Shaw is first choice but has only started twice since being sent off against Italy.

Injury has kept the Manchester United left-back out of the last three squads, with an issue keeping Ben Chilwell out of the previous two camps.

The Chelsea man played in both matches against Ukraine but right-back Kieran Trippier has started as many matches on the left this year.

Levi Colwill, Fikayo Tomori and Rico Lewis have also begun matches there, but Southgate will be praying Shaw and Chilwell get back fit and firing.

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