Gareth Southgate is positive about England, despite being boosted by the Italy defeat

Gareth Southgate is positive about England, despite being boosted by the Italy defeat

Gareth Southgate is positive about England, despite being boosted by the Italy defeat

Gareth Southgate understands why traveling fans booed him at full-time but was upbeat about England’s performance after defeat to Italy saw them relegated from the Nations League.

Considered among the favorites to win the World Cup in Qatar, things have gone wrong for the EC 2020 runner-up at exactly the wrong time.

Nations League defeat to Hungary capped a miserable four-game spell in June, with the 1-0 defeat in Budapest followed by a draw against Germany and behind closed doors against Italy.

The 4-0 Molineux thrashing of the Magyars left them at a crossroads heading to Milan, where Giacomo Raspadori secured the Azzurri a 1-0 win that condemned the Three Lions to relegation from the top flight.

It was an embarrassing bump on the road just 59 days before the World Cup opener against Iran and led to some of the 4,415 traveling fans booing Southgate at full-time.

“Look, very difficult to find out why we’re not scoring because I think we’re getting into the right areas,” the England manager said.

“We had the moments we would have had in the past. We just didn’t deliver the final quality tonight.

“I understand the reaction at the end because those are the results we’ve had in this competition and yes, it’s an understandable emotional reaction.”

England’s five-game winless run is their longest since 2014 and means they were relegated with Monday’s Nations League home game against Germany to spare.

“Well, difficult for me to be too critical of the performance,” Southgate said. “We had more possession, more shots, more shots on goal. I think we played very well for the most part.

“We didn’t handle the decisive moment defensively and we had moments where we had the chance to be more decisive in their final third and our quality wasn’t quite right.

“It’s a period where, of course, ultimately the results are going to be the thing that everyone reacts to, but I thought there were a lot of positive signs for us as a team tonight.

– I think there were many good individual performances. I personally think the show is a step in the right direction.

“But I fully understand, because of the result, it’s not going to be the reaction externally.”

In truth, it was a tepid response from England in June and an alarming penultimate game before the World Cup given the side looked toothless in attack and frail at the back.

“We’ve said we’re not in an ideal situation in terms of the number of players playing at a high level regularly,” Southgate said. “But we have to keep working on it and we have to make sure we stay on track.

“There will be a huge amount of noise, of course, but it has been created from the summer, really, and I fully understand that.

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane reflect on the defeat in Milan

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane reflect on the defeat in Milan (Antonio Calanni/AP).

– The players in the dressing room know that this was a game they could well have won, and if they take their chances and defend the goal better, then we will win. There are nice margins.

“We play against some of the biggest soccer nations and the fine margins are crucial.”

Italy are not going to the World Cup this winter and manager Roberto Mancini was pleased with his team’s victory on Friday night.

“We beat England, who are one of the strongest national teams in the world,” he said. “The game system doesn’t matter.

“What matters is the personality of a team, the desire to attack and stay high – and we were very good in this sense. The win was deserved.”

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