Gareth Southgate said England’s 1-1 draw with Ukraine was a reminder that the kind of crushing victory they have produced in recent qualifiers cannot be regarded as the norm.
An equaliser from Kyle Walker cancelled out Oleksandr Zinchenko’s opener and means England dropped their first points in Group C but remain six clear at the summit. They had scored 15 times in the previous four ties, beating North Macedonia 7-0 and winning 4-0 in Malta, and Southgate saw the outcome in Wroclaw as one that should temper expectations of regular goalfests.
“The reality is we’re not going to win every game by fours and sevens as we’ve done in this qualifying campaign,” he said. “That was a really good test, away from home, in a very passionate atmosphere. We had quite a few changes forced from the last game. Sometimes, especially with attacking play, it doesn’t quite click.”
Southgate was delighted with the pass Harry Kane provided from just inside Ukraine’s half for Walker’s first international goal, saying it showed the captain’s “outstanding vision but also technical quality to make those passes” but accepted that England were otherwise blunt. Bukayo Saka hit the woodwork shortly before the hour but, beyond that, pickings were slim and Southgate’s deployment of James Maddison in a nominal left-sided role failed to have the desired effect.
“We tried to refresh things to give them a different sort of problem but today our forward play, bar the goal and probably Bukayo’s effort that hit the bar, wasn’t at the level that it has been in our previous games.”
The outcome, though, was hardly a disaster against a useful Ukraine side roared on by a passionate crowd in the Polish city and he pointed out that it complemented March’s 2-1 win in Italy. “It’s a very important point for us and we’ve now played the two best-ranked teams away from home and we’ve got four points from those two games.”
Ukraine were happy with a point that means they retain a strong chance of finishing second. They are unable to play international games in their homeland due to Russia’s invasion but their manager, the former Tottenham player Serhiy Rebrov, said his players were buoyed by 40,000 of his compatriots.
“Today’s atmosphere was amazing,” he said. “Our fans motivated the boys a lot and when you play football against teams like England you always want that. We have to play outside Ukraine and I think the players understand it. We talked a lot about our people in Ukraine and it’s important our players give emotion to the people, positive emotion. I think we did that today.”