Gareth Southgate says England squad have 'limitations' after lacklustre start to Euro 2024

22 June 2024, 15:23

England manager Gareth Southgate has suggested his team are not fit enough
England manager Gareth Southgate has suggested his team are not fit enough. Picture: Alamy

By Will Conroy

England manager Gareth Southgate has suggested his team are not fit enough after the disappointing start to their Euro 2024 campaign.

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Despite picking up four points from their opening two matches, the flat and defensive performances have attracted criticism from both fans and pundits.

England opened their account with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Serbia before being held to a 1-1 draw against Denmark in Frankfurt on Sunday.

The Three Lions were criticised in both clashes for dropping deep after taking the lead and the England boss has since said that his side have “limitations”and are struggling to play a pressing game because of their physical condition.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday evening's final group game against Slovenia in Cologne, Southgate said: "We are not pressing well enough, with enough intensity.

"We have limitations in how we can do that with the physical condition. We can't press as high up the pitch as we might have done in the qualifiers, for example.

Gareth Southgate received significant criticism after England drew 1-1 against Denmark
Gareth Southgate received significant criticism after England drew 1-1 against Denmark. Picture: Alamy

"And we are not keeping the ball well enough. We have to keep the ball better and build with more control."

England’s injury list has posed problems for the manager, particularly in defence, putting a greater strain on those available to him.

Manchester United’s Harry Maguire - a key figure in the Southgate era - has missed out completely through injury while his club teammate Luke Shaw has yet to feature as he recovers from a hamstring issue.

Question marks over fitness also ruled out Chelsea fullbacks Ben Chilwell and Reece James while key forwards Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane had injury concerns coming into the tournament.

Despite opening the scoring against Denmark, there have been questions raised over whether the England skipper is fully fit with much of the criticism around England’s lack of pressing directed towards him and his mobility.

There were injury concerns over Harry Kane after picking up a back injury with Bayern Munich
There were injury concerns over Harry Kane after picking up a back injury with Bayern Munich. Picture: Alamy

With the Three Lions widely tipped as favourites coming into the European Championship, Southgate has also suggested that the players "care too much" about winning a major international trophy.

The men’s senior side has failed to do so since winning the World Cup in 1966.

Southgate said: "I am seeing every day that they are loving working together. I don't think it is a lack of spark.

"At the moment, they ironically care too much and they need firm leadership at this time, in my opinion.

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"We have to guide through the difficult period that is coming but really stay on track and focus on this challenge ahead."

He added: "We are trying to do something that has never been done before. So that is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster.

"It's not going to go smoothly when you are trying to achieve extraordinary things. They are bloody difficult.

"So, we have to accept the level of expectations, we have to accept the arena we are in. And we have to find a better way of playing the way we have so far."

Declan Rice produced an uncharacteristically hesitant display on Thursday
Declan Rice produced an uncharacteristically hesitant display on Thursday. Picture: Alamy

Declan Rice, who produced an uncharacteristically hesitant display on Thursday, has echoed this saying the players are “so desperate” to succeed.

The Arsenal midfielder said: "I think we are all so desperate to do the country proud.

"We are all so desperate to win, to be leaders, to go out there and give people memories for lifetimes and sometimes I maybe feel like we put too much pressure on ourselves where we could just go out there and let it just take care of ourselves."

He added: "Of course there is expectation because they are the best players in the world. And that goes for everyone throughout the team. There's going to be that pressure.

"This is England, a major tournament. But look this is our job and this is what we have to deal with. At the end of the day it's us, we've played in high-pressure games, high-pressure environments."

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