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Questioning coaches: Can Gareth Southgate find success as England manager?

The England boss is under fire after his ‘Three Lions’ side fell to Italy on Friday with defeat condemning the team to League B in the Nations League.

England manager Gareth Southgate
Zac Goodwin - PA ImagesGetty

Following the final whistle at San Siro on Friday night, England manager Gareth Southgate made his way to the Curva Nord at the famous stadium to show his gratitude to the 5,000 travelling England fans perched high in the upper tier of the ground. A volley of boos and whistles greeted the 52-year-old after his England side fell to a 1-0 defeat. The loss mathematically condemns the ‘Three Lions’ to the lower League B tier of the Nations League but more worryingly saw his side finish a fifth consecutive game (over 450 minutes of playing time) without scoring and all this with the 2022 World Cup looming on the horizon.

“It’s difficult for me to be too critical of the performance. We had more possession, more shots, more shots on target,” he said. “For large parts of the game we played very well. We didn’t deal with the decisive moment defensively. We had moments where we had the chance to be decisive in their final third, [but] our quality wasn’t quite right.

For the first time in his tenure since taking over as England head coach in 2016, the knives are being sharpened.

Gareth Southgate, head coach of England
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Gareth Southgate, head coach of EnglandAnadolu AgencyGetty

Right man for the job

Southgate is adamant he is the right man to lead the team into the World Cup despite a woeful run of form.

Defeat on Friday condemned the ‘Three Lions’ to relegation in the Nations League, extending the winless streak to five matches in the process and despite being under the most pressure he has been in his six-year stint in charge, believes he remains the best choice to take the team to Qatar.

“Without a doubt. We’re playing and have been playing some top-level sides and we will be better for that,” he said.

“And the younger players, in particular, that have been in these games will have learned a lot from them.

“In the past we’ve had runs of friendlies or whatever the matches are and then we’ve gone into tournaments and that’s the first time we’ve hit high-level opposition and it’s hit us in the face quite often.

“Now we know the level, now we know what we’ve got to improve and we’ll be better placed for that by having had the quality of matches that we’ve had.”

Kane support

Southgate’s views were echoed by England captain Harry Kane, who is confident the ‘Three Lions’ will be back to their best in time for the start of the tournament in November.

“I believe we are going to be judged on how we perform out in Qatar. We’re just in one of those moments where it’s not quite going our way. We’re confident we can turn that around,” he stated.

“We have one more game on Monday to try to get some good feelings back. Ultimately, once we get to the World Cup, we will be ready for that first game and be fully focused on that.

“I don’t think our confidence has been dented, but you want to win games. We are all experienced enough, with our clubs especially we have been through those moments when things haven’t been going so well. It’s about bouncing back.”

 Harry Kane of England
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Harry Kane of England Ciancaphoto StudioGetty

Qatar 2022

Losing semi-finalists at the Russia 2018 World Cup and beaten finalists at Euro 2021, Southgate has enjoyed one of the most successful managerial spells ever as England coach.

His England side are pitted in Group B at the World Cup along with Iran, Wales and the United States and despite the Nations League, the ‘Three Lions’ remain as one of the bookmakers favourites to lift the trophy in Qatar.