Gareth Southgate blasts England’s attackers for not being ‘at our previous level’ during frustrating Euro 2024 qualifier draw with Ukraine in Poland
Gareth Southgate told his attacking players they weren’t good enough in their 1-1 draw against Ukraine in Euro 2024 qualifying and warned them that he does not expect such sluggard performances again.
Starting with James Maddison, Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane, with Jude Bellingham also joining the attacking line, Southgate conceded that England had been blunt by the standards of their pervious razor-sharp displays, which has seen wins in Italy and goal fests against North Macedonia and Malta.
Southgate said: ‘Clearly, most of our attacking play wasn’t at the level that we would have hoped it to be. I think by the time we scored the goal we’d had over 70 per cent of the ball but that was our first attempt on target.
‘We turned over [lost] too many balls that we wouldn’t normally. I wouldn’t expect that to happen again.
‘We know that the patterns that we worked during the week are what we always do, so it’s not that we approach the game in a different way.
Gareth Southgate was not impressed with England’s attacking players in draw with Ukraine
Other than Bukayo Saka hitting the bar, England’s chances were limited in Poland on Saturday
‘We tried to refresh things to give them a different sort of problem but today our forward play, bar the goal and Bukayo Saka’s effort that hit the bar, wasn’t at the level that it has been in our previous games.’
Nevertheless, Southgate pronounced himself happy with the point, with England still firmly on course to qualify for Euro 2024 and the team coming back in a fiercely partisan atmosphere, with 45,000 Ukrainians in exile filling the Tarczynski Arena in Wroclaw southern Poland, where the Ukraine national team play their home game due to the war.
Southgate said: ‘The reality is we’re not going to win every game by fours and sevens as we’ve done in this qualifying campaign. That was a really good test, away from home, very passionate atmosphere. 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.
‘What I liked was the control of the game that we had when you come into an intense atmosphere like there was. I thought we played with real composure up until the final third Given the circumstances and the importance of the point in terms of qualification and coming from behind when the crowd are full [of hope] and the opposition have something to hang on to. That was a really good test, away from home.
‘For people like Mark Guehi, for instance, that’s his first experience of the game like that with England, which he came through really strongly. James Maddison would be one that won’t have played in an England game like that in the past. Ben Chilwell wouldn’t have played a huge number of those games for us either.
‘So, the only way to learn and grow as a team is to have those sorts of experiences. To go behind in a game like that is a challenge, but we stayed calm. And, without a doubt, to go through that sort of experience is good learning for several of the players.
‘I think on a night like this the experienced players were really important for the team and I thought they all did a very, very good job.’
Southgate noted that Marc Guehi came through his first tough test with England strongly