England: Fans throw cups towards Gareth Southgate as Slovenia stalemate heavily booed

England: Fans throw cups towards Gareth Southgate as Slovenia stalemate heavily booed

Plastic cups appeared to be thrown in the direction of Gareth Southgate as he applauded England fans following the goalless draw with Slovenia at Euro 2024.

Footage that circulated widely on social media following Tuesday night’s Group C finale in Cologne showed two empty plastic cups landing near Southgate as he showed his appreciation to supporters after another disappointing Three Lions performance.

There were also heavy boos from England fans after the final whistle in the wake of a third consecutive underwhelming display at the European Championship.

England were particularly frustrating again in the first half at RheinEnergieStadion, jeered off at half-time having failed to create any meaningful chances aside from a Bukayo Saka goal that was rightly ruled out for offside.

Southgate’s side were improved after the break and played with more attacking intent, pace and impetus, helped by the half-time introduction of Manchester United’s Kobbie Mainoo in place of Conor Gallagher in midfield.

Chelsea’s Player of the Season Cole Palmer also impressed with his first minutes of the tournament off the bench, but it was not enough to break the stalemate.

However, the Three Lions still topped Group C after rivals Denmark drew 0-0 with Serbia in Munich on Tuesday, meaning they avoid having to play Germany in the last 16 in Dortmund on Saturday night.

Criticism: Gareth Southgate could not inspire England to victory over Slovenia in Cologne (Getty Images)
Criticism: Gareth Southgate could not inspire England to victory over Slovenia in Cologne (Getty Images)

Instead, England’s first knockout game will come on Sunday evening back in Gelsenkirchen, scene of their 1-0 win over Serbia in their opening match, against an as yet unknown opponent most likely at this stage to be the Netherlands or the team that finishes third in Group E - which could still be any of Romania, Belgium, Slovakia or Ukraine ahead of the final round of group games on Wednesday evening.

England have landed in a separate half of the draw to the likes of heavyweights Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, none of whom they will now meet unless they reach the final in Berlin next month.

England fans provided excellent, noisy support for their team throughout the second half in Cologne, though could not hide their frustrations at the final whistle.

Of the reaction to him at full-time from the stands, Southgate said: "I understand it, I'm not going to back away from it.

“The most important thing here is the supporters stay with the team. I understand the narrative towards me. That's better for the team than it being towards them. But it's creating an unusual environment to operate in.

“I've not seen any other team qualify and receive similar. I understand it, I'm not going to back away from it but I'm very, very proud of the players for how they're operating within it."

Southgate told ITV of the performance against Slovenia: “I thought we were much improved with the ball. We created some good openings. At the moment it’s hard work for us – we’re not quite getting that break in front of goal.

“The boys who came on had a really good impact on the game, and we had the discipline to keep a clean sheet, which meant we won the group. I understand some of the reactions, but it’s a strange environment we play in.

“Cole Palmer was very good. He finds space well, he’s got lovely technique, he’s calm. You really fancied him when he got that chance at the end.

“They’re really young players (Mainoo and Palmer), so we’re balancing blooding them in a difficult environment. They came on and played really well for us.

It's creating an unusual environment to operate in

Gareth Southgate on England fan criticism

“There’s lots to build on from tonight. Tonight we started with Conor who pressed well, then we thought Kobbie’s ability to move the ball up the pitch would help us and it did.

“I don’t think we were ever going to go from where we were to winning 3-0 or 4-0. But there were a lot of things I was pleased about. We have to take it a step at a time.

“Tonight was an improvement and we have to keep improving. But we have topped the group and that was our intention at the start.

“The draw is irrelevant. We shouldn’t be seduced by which half we’re in. We have to play well, whoever we play.

“Some things are starting to come together. The defensive play has been a huge positive. Today we looked more dangerous and had a good impact from our subs. Now we’ve got to convert those chances.”