Gareth Southgate defiant on England’s World Cup hopes after ‘chastening’ Hungary loss

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 (PA)
(PA)

Gareth Southgate says the buck stops with him over England’s “chastening” defeat to Hungary, but says their dreadful run of form in the Nations League is not reflective of their true quality - or their chances at this winter’s World Cup.

Southgate saw the home crowd turn on him following an embarrassing 4-0 annihilation at the hands of Hungary, a result which represents England’s worst home defeat in almost a century.

It completes a miserable run of four matches in which England have scored just once - a Harry Kane penalty - and seen the momentum carried from last summer’s run to the final of the European Championships stall.

Southgate was cast as a national hero after guiding the Three Lions to their first major tournament final since 1966, off the back of reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but was subjected to boos and chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” from England supporters at Molineux.

“I know the role, I knew the role before I took it,” Southgate said, when asked about a level of discontent not seen previously during his reign. "I would say it’s happened over the period of ten days, not 11 months. But I saw all my predecessors go through that, and I know great people like Bobby Robson, what he had to go through and how he was viewed in the end, getting the team to a World Cup semi-final.

“Football’s emotional, people pay to come and watch. The team weren’t able to deliver tonight, it’s my responsibility, so if the flack comes my way I have to deal with that. It’s not realistic to have had the ride I’ve had for five years and not have bad nights, difficult nights and criticism.

Southgate has rotated his teams heavily throughout this international break, in part to manage the minutes of players at the end of a hectic club campaign and in part to experiment ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, before which England now have just two more matches.

While not using rotation as an excuse for the nature of Tuesday night’s embarrassment, Southgate said that trying to balance the two goals had been a major factor in his side’s struggles and insisted a full-strength England remain a force to be reckoned with.

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

“It’s a chastening night,” Southgate said. “The responsibility lies with me but there was also the fact that it was very difficult to put the strongest team out in every game, so we used it to prepare for Qatar.

“I don’t think it is damaging for the mentality of the group because they haven’t been at full strength for the matches they’ve lost. That’s a key factor. We know we’ve got depth and exciting players coming through but we need to be at full strength to win matches and I think some other teams have experienced that as well.

“The irony is that the pressure we’ve had and the repetitional comments have come in the two Nations League campaigns and in neither campaign have we been anywhere near able to pick our strongest teams. The matches where every other England manager has been judged, we’ve had best performances in 50 years. There’s a balance in my head and I’m really clear but I totally understand the response tonight.”

When asked whether the run of results had dented his belief in England’s World Cup chances, Southgate added: “After a result like tonight, whatever I answer is going to be open to ridicule so I’ve got to get the balance right. What we’re very clear on is what works for us, what gets results for us, what has got results. We didn’t get that balance right in these games, but I think there were mitigating circumstances for that.

“We’ve always said we’re one of a group of teams that can be pushing in the winter and I don’t think thats’ any different. I think other big teams have had difficult periods in this competition.”

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