Gareth Southgate sticks to convictions and vows to block out criticism | England

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Gareth Southgate says he will block out any criticism directed towards inconsistent results in the buildup to the World Cup and refuse to let negative opinions interfere with his planning.

England came out of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Germany in decent shape after equalising late on and finishing the game strongly. The outcome felt important after a surprise 1-0 defeat by Hungary and before Saturday’s visit of Italy, a rerun of the Euro 2020 final. Southgate, asked whether a degree of realism around setbacks is needed during a schedule that gave his squad four Nations League ties in 11 days, explained the importance of sticking to his convictions.

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“I know what I wanted from these games,” the manager said. “I also accept that with England you’re going to be judged and you have got to win every match.

“But I’ve got to think a little bit differently to that and accept that if there is criticism, fine. I have got to make the right decisions for the players, for the team, to try to improve the team and if that means criticism then so be it. If my decision-making is affected by that, then it’s something I am not going to be successful with.”

Given the intensity of the programme, Southgate will make changes for the Italy game and Tuesday’s rematch against Hungary. “You have seen right across Europe: France changed 10, Spain changed eight, Portugal changed seven,” he said. “This is quite a unique set of games where teams are thinking about player welfare to a degree, freshness, but also they are preparing for a World Cup because they know what’s coming and what they haven’t got in terms of friendlies ahead of the tournament.”

Jack Grealish is a contender for the XI after shining in his cameo at the Allianz Arena, even though Southgate was lukewarm about the winger’s prospects as a regular starter afterwards. Southgate suggested Harry Kane would be rested for one of the fixtures, both at Molineux, meaning Kane is unlikely to break Wayne Rooney’s goalscoring record this month despite moving within three when he scored his 50th for England from the spot in Munich. Tammy Abraham will be given a chance to impress from the start, perhaps against Hungary.

After the Germany match, Kane expressed a desire to play every game; his manager put the brakes on that. “Harry is … a phenomenal professional, the way he looks after himself,” he said. “I’m not saying he’s going to get his desire to start all four games, by the way, because there’s also Tammy that we want to see perform as well.”

At least one of Nick Pope and Aaron Ramsdale will also be given the chance to put extra pressure on Jordan Pickford over the next week. Phil Foden’s return is in doubt, though, with Southgate saying the Manchester City player’s return from Covid-19 is progressing more slowly than hoped. In an agreed move, Trent Alexander-Arnold will be released from the next two games after his domestic season extended to the Champions League final with no break.

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Southgate was delighted by the effort a tired squad put in to claw back a point against Germany. “So many of them, when picking the team, you look at it and they’ve been to a World Cup semi-final and Euros final. It’s not only the quality and experience of playing in an environment like that, but the spirit they’ve got and the fact they’re going to die for each other on the pitch,” he said.

“They can barely walk in the dressing room. It’s a phenomenal effort they’ve given.”

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