Southgate concedes 'it's hard work' for England after Slovenia draw

By Sports Desk June 25, 2024

Gareth Southgate acknowledged it is "hard work" for England so far at Euro 2024, but attempted to focus on the positives despite another underwhelming draw for his side, this time against Slovenia.

The goalless clash in Cologne on Tuesday was enough for the Three Lions to secure top spot in Group C ahead of Denmark, who also drew 0-0 with Serbia.

Southgate's side therefore avoided a last-16 tie against Germany, but struggled once more to find an attacking spark.

The front three of Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden managed just two shots on target between them, while also registering just nine touches in Slovenia's penalty box.

England came under heavy criticism following their 1-1 draw with Denmark last week and there were boos from sections of their supporters following the full-time whistle in this game.

But Southgate insisted his side had performed better in their final group outing. 

"I thought we were much-improved with the ball," he told ITV. "We've created some good openings.

"At the moment, it's hard work for us. We're not quite getting that break in front of goal.

"We've had the discipline to keep a clean sheet, which has ended up meaning we top the group. I understand some reactions, but it's a strange environment we're playing in.

"We wanted to win the game, as you saw from the attacking changes we made. There were lots of things we can build on from the game and a lot of things are starting to come together.

"We looked more dangerous and we had a good impact from our subs. We've now just got to convert those chances."

The Three Lions boss praised the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon for their displays from the bench, and also explained his decision to replace Conor Gallagher - the sole change to the starting line-up from the Denmark game - at half-time.

"They're really young players, so we're balancing blooding them in a difficult environment, but they used the ball really well for us," he said.

"We started with Conor, who presses well, and I thought we did that better at the start of the game. We then felt Kobbie's ability to move the ball through the middle of the pitch was going to be helpful, which he did.

"I don't think we were going to go from where we were to winning 3-0 or 4-0; it's not realistic in the intensity in the game that we had. But there were a lot of things I was really pleased with."

England now await the identity of their last-16 opponents, which will either be the Netherlands - who finished third in Group D - or the third-placed nation in Group E.

The Euro 2020 finalists have avoided the half of the draw containing the likes of Germany, Spain, Portugal and France.

However, Southgate was quick to sweep aside any suggestions his side have been handed a more straightforward path towards a potentially deep run in the competition.

"We have to take it a step at a time," he added. "This was an improvement, but we've got to improve to win in the next round clearly.

"We have topped the group, and that was the objective at the start.

"We've got to play well and whoever we play, it's going to be a really tough game. We shouldn't be seduced by which half of the draw we're in."

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