After being jeered off, Southgate has a lot of hard work ahead

FRANKFURT: England came to Germany as the bookmakers’ leading contenders to win the tournament. But they have failed to match those lofty expectations in their first two Group C matches.

They were fortunate to escape with a 1-0 win against Serbia after a spluttering display in the second half of their opener and even manager Gareth Southgate admitted that the lacklustre 1-1 draw against Denmark showed they are struggling to cope with the pressure of being one of the favourites.

They produced a limpid performance in Frankfurt on Thursday as Harry Kane’s 18th minute strike was cancelled out by Morten Hjulmand’s brilliant long-range blast before the interval. They players were jeered off the pitch by frustrated fans after their lethargic display.

“Clearly we are disappointed with the level of the two performances. We have to analyse that in depth and find some solutions,” Southgate said.

“We know the level can be higher. Maybe the biggest thing is we have to accept the environment we are in and walk towards the expectations.

“We are in the environment of winning on the biggest possible stage. These boys aren’t lacking effort. We have to find more quality in what we do. If anything, they are showing they care too much.”

“If we don’t win we have to accept what comes our way. I can completely understand the fans’ frustration with the way we played,” Southgate said.

“That is my responsibility as the manager. I have to find solutions. England have never won back to back group matches I was told. There is a reason for that. We have to stay calm inside the group and find answers.

“The challenge is to do something that has never been done before. So it couldn’t be any bigger.”

Southgate said the key to England’s failings against a combative and intelligent Danish side was their failure to press hard enough and a lack of quality on the ball.

“We have to accept that we didn’t press with enough intensity. We kept conceding possession too easily. When you do those things it’s hard to have control,” he said. — AFP

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