Southgate accepts blame for England draw and admits ‘level has to be higher’

Gareth Southgate accepted the blame for England’s turgid 1-1 draw with Denmark, but he suggested that his players must cope better with the weight of expectation on their shoulders at Euro 2024.

Southgate, whose team were booed off after labouring in their second match of the tournament, found himself unable to paint a positive picture after a disappointing evening at the Frankfurt Arena.

Related: Hjulmand rocket earns Denmark draw as England struggle after Kane opener

England were outplayed after going ahead with an early goal from Harry Kane, who went on to fall below his usual standards before his surprising substitution in the second half, and were fortunate to escape with a point that keeps them on track to win Group C.

Southgate, who also saw a retreat during last Sunday’s 1-0 win over Serbia, felt his players did not press well enough and admitted that he needed to find solutions before facing Slovenia next Tuesday.

“We are disappointed with the two performances we’ve had so we’ve got to go and analyse that in depth and find some solutions to addressing the issues that we have,” the England manager said. “We know the level has to be higher. Maybe the biggest thing is we have to accept the environment that we’re in and the expectation around this.

“We are going to have to walk towards that challenge. At the moment we’re falling a bit short of that. Ultimately that’s my responsibility. I’m the manager and I’ve got to guide this group in the best way possible. To achieve extraordinary things, you have to go through some difficult moments.”

Southgate, who called the performance anxious and criticised the poor passing that led to Morten Hjulmand’s equaliser, was asked about England’s fans jeering near the end of the game and at full-time.

“We’re in the environment of winning on the biggest possible stage and if I don’t hit the level that’s needed, then we have to accept what comes our way,” he said. “We have to find the best way to solve that. Of course we need the fans. But I have to say they’ve been brilliant. What I would say is these boys are not lacking effort at the moment. It’s not a case that they’re not trying. If anything at the moment we care too much.”

After the game, Prince William went into the England dressing room to speak to the players.

England have taken a lot of inexperienced players to Germany and it was put to Southgate that some are struggling to deal with the pressure of international football. “We’re in an environment where we have to deliver,” he said. “We have to walk towards that challenge. I intend to walk towards it, whatever the reaction is. I’m not going to avoid going over to the fans at the end of the game. We confront it head on.”

Southgate admitted that England lack balance with the right-footed Kieran Trippier deputising for Luke Shaw at left-back. He said that he has not found a replacement in midfield for Kalvin Phillips, although he defended Trent Alexander-Arnold’s performance. Alexander-Arnold, who started again in the middle, was the first England player to be substituted.

“One of our biggest problems was we weren’t pressing well enough as a team so he had a lot of problems to solve and most of those he did really well,” Southgate said. “We are looking at a team performance and the team didn’t function today and that is my responsibility.”

It had been hoped that England’s defeat to Iceland in their final warm-up match would serve as a wake-up call. Southgate, who refused to blame the state of the pitch for the stodginess, faces a huge task to make his players believe that they can become European champions for the first time.

“The challenge is to do something that has never been done before so it couldn’t be any bigger,” he said. “We know we have had a lot of issues but we are where we are now and we have to find the best way forward.”

Southgate was pressed on whether Kane is fit after returning from a back injury. The captain was taken off when England were chasing a goal in the second half. “He has only had one 90 minutes in the last five or six weeks and it took a lot out of him,” Southgate said.