Gareth Southgate: No concern for England at Euro 2024 despite Malta performance

By Sports Desk November 17, 2023

Gareth Southgate said England’s players fell short of the standards they “need to be at” against Malta but had no concerns about their attitude and aptitude ahead of next summer’s European Championship.

Nobody at Wembley expected anything other than a victory from the side ranked fourth in the world against the one nestled between Fiji and Bermuda in 171st.

But already-qualified England made hard work of a straightforward Group C qualifying assignment on Friday, with Enrico Pepe’s own goal giving the hosts a lead in a first half in which they failed to muster a single shot on target.

Harry Kane added another after a rare moment of quality interplay in the second half as Southgate’s side limped to a 2-0 victory that all but assures their place among the top seeds at next month’s Euro 2024 draw.

“We didn’t start the game well,” the England boss said. “I’ve been in football for 35 years and if you don’t start well, it’s really difficult to pick it up.

“We needed, of course, to show better quality with the ball but also we were a bit stretched without it and a little bit disjointed in our pressing at times.

“We were not the level we would want to be at. We were not the level that we need to be at.

“But, equally, this group of players have been exceptional and I’m not going to start getting into their ribs too much about a performance like tonight.

“We made a few changes, we didn’t hit the levels we would have liked to have but they managed to win the game.

“Not in the style we’d have liked for the supporters but, in the end, we’ve won comfortably, as we should.”

England now head onto Skopje to complete their Euro 2024 qualification campaign against North Macedonia as preparations continue for next summer.

Glory in Germany is the sole focus and Southgate dismissed the suggestion that his players taking their foot off the gas at home to Malta was a worrying sign.

“No, it’s not a worry because I think sometimes when players have so many matches they almost self-regulate,” Southgate said.

“I’ve been a player. You know that there’s a certain level you need to hit to beat Italy here and you know that you don’t have to hit that level to win today’s game.

“Although you would think that everybody would be at the same level all the time, that’s not the reality of football.

“I’ve played in those matches myself and there are nights where subconsciously you just do enough to win and I think that’s a little bit where we were tonight.”

England were below par for the most part on Friday, but Southgate still saw things he liked in their final home match of an unbeaten year.

“We scored a lovely second goal and I think there were some individual performances that were very positive,” he added.

“I thought Trent (Alexander-Arnold) was very, very good (in midfield). Him and Phil (Foden) in the first half were the two that looked like opening things up.

“I thought Marc Guehi had a very mature performance again. He’s really growing as an international footballer.

“It was lovely to get Cole Palmer on and give him a feel of things and I thought he looked really very comfortable in the environment.”

The result meant Malta ended qualification bottom of Group C with defeats in all eight of their games, but they showed signs of promise against the Euro 2020 runners-up.

Teddy Teuma went close to a famous opener just 28 seconds into the match at Wembley, where head coach Michele Marcolini praised his players’ efforts.

“I’m very proud of my players,” the Malta boss said. “I think they came here in Wembley without fear, always brave. We tried to be as offensive as possible.

“They reacted very, very well to falling behind. I think during these European qualifiers, we grew a lot and in these last matches against Ukraine and England played very well.

“For everything, to grow, we need time. I am very happy with our performance and the regret is we didn’t score. It would have been amazing.

“Apart from that, we wanted to make the fans proud and I think today the players put on the pitch the last drop of sweat I asked them to do yesterday.”

Related items

  • Duggan to leave Everton after second spell at club Duggan to leave Everton after second spell at club

    Everton have announced that Toni Duggan will leave the club when her contract expires at the end of this month.

    The forward is departing after her second spell at the club, having started her career at Everton in 2007-08 before rejoining in July 2021.

    She appeared in all but one of Everton's matches during her return season but missed the entirety of the second after going on maternity leave, but returned to action last October.

    The 32-year-old initially broke into the first team at 16 years old and scored an extra-time winner against Watford to send Everton into the Premier League Cup final.

    In her first spell, she was named FA Women’s Young Player of the Year in 2009 and went on to lift the FA Women's Cup the following year.

    Duggan played 92 games for the Toffees over her two spells, scoring 29 goals.

    Alan McTavish, Everton Women's Chief Executive Officer, said: "Everyone at Everton thanks Toni for her service and commitment to the club.

    "From breaking into the senior team as a 16-year-old to winning the FA Cup, she can be very proud of her contribution to Everton.

    "We wish Toni all the best for the future."

    Duggan has also played for Manchester City, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid while earning 79 England caps to date.

  • Charlotte FC vs Orlando City: Smith hoping for Orso insight against struggling former club Charlotte FC vs Orlando City: Smith hoping for Orso insight against struggling former club

    Dean Smith will hope to utilise the experience of former Orlando City midfielder Junior Orso when his new team Charlotte FC host them in MLS on Thursday.

    Charlotte head coach Smith says the influence of Orso, who spent four seasons with Orlando, could benefit the home side at Bank of America Stadium.

    "It helps," Smith said of Orso's knowledge. "Little insights of information that can help.

    "The fact that Junior will know a lot about them will certainly help us as well."

    The Crown are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, too, owing to their remarkable defence that has helped them to ninth in the Supporter's Shield rankings.

    "Defense wins championships,” said Brandt Bronico, reflecting on the team's success this season. "If you can get the defense right, you can [then] start creating and having fun on the offensive end.

    "The collective defense-first mindset is probably the most important thing in the locker room."

    Orlando are struggling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, sitting just one point ahead of New England Revolution, who still have a game in hand.

    Oscar Pareja's side were beaten 3-1 by Los Angeles FC last time out, extending their winless streak to four games.

    The Orlando head coach acknowledged improvements are needed.

    "We need to have a deeper analysis about what's happening on the pitch," Pareja said.

    "But once again, it's not enough at this point. We need to win games and that's not happening."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Charlotte FC – Kristijan Kahlina

    Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five straight home matches for the first time in club history, thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.

    With a shutout against Orlando, Charlotte would become the sixth team in MLS history to keep six straight home clean sheets within a single season, equaling the second-longest run in league history.

    Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro

    Nicolas Lodeiro completed 107 of 115 pass attempts on Saturday against LAFC, a new career high in his 208th regular-season match after never completing more than 88 passes in a match before.

    It was the most passes ever completed by an Orlando player in an MLS match, though Lodeiro may not have as much control for this meeting.

    MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE FC WIN

    The pre-match predictions fall in the favour of the home side as Charlotte appear the most likely victors on Thursday.

    Charlotte FC went unbeaten in all three meetings with Orlando in all competitions last season (W2 D1), after Orlando won both matches in 2022.

    Expect another nervy encounter, however, as all five matches between this pair have been decided by one goal or drawn.

    Yet the hosts will be confident as Charlotte have lost only one of their last 19 regular-season home matches, dating back to the beginning of June 2023 (W9 D9).

    Only last season's MLS Cup finalists Los Angeles FC (40) and Columbus Crew (38) have earned more points at home than Charlotte (36) over that span, and Orlando are struggling heading into this one.

    The visitors have lost eight matches in the 2024 season, one more than they had all of last year.

    Yet not all hope is lost given the Lions have lost only one of their last six away from home (W3 D2).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Charlotte FC – 42.8%

    Orlando City – 30.5%

    Draw – 26.7%

  • Argentina v Canada: Messi braced for tough Copa America title defence despite favourites tag Argentina v Canada: Messi braced for tough Copa America title defence despite favourites tag

    Argentina are preparing to defend their Copa America title, but Lionel Messi is staying realistic ahead of their opening match against Canada on Thursday.

    The Albiceleste beat Brazil 1-0 in the final in 2021 to win the title for the first time since 1993 before going on to lift the World Cup just over a year later.

    Since their victory over France in December 2022, Argentina have remained in strong form, losing just one of their 14 matches in all competitions and winning the other 13.

    Messi, who will become the Copa America's all-time record appearance-maker when he next features in the tournament, says he expects to face a tough challenge to retain the trophy.

    "Argentina are always favourites," Messi said. "I think it is going to be a very eventful tournament because national teams are becoming better and better.

    "Today we are the best because we won the World Cup, but the Copa America is going to be difficult.

    "It will be even, and our team is aware that we are going to have to continue doing the same and more to win again.

    "We are going to try to win the Copa America again but let's remember that not everything is about winning."

    Meanwhile, Canada are making their first appearance at the Copa America after qualifying through the playoffs with a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.

    They failed to get out of the group stage on their return to the world stage in Qatar two years ago, but now under new coach Jesse Marsch they are looking to make an impression before co-hosting the World Cup in 2026.

    Canada had an encouraging 0-0 draw against France in their last warm-up match and will hope a squad containing Alphonso Davies, Stephen Eustaquio and Jonathan David can be competitive in a Group A that also contains Chile and Peru.

    Tests do not come much tougher than the reigning champions, but Marsch is confident they have a plan to deal with the danger Argentina, and Messi, pose.

    "We're excited for this tournament, we know it's a big challenge," said Marsch. "It won't be a shock to us when we encounter the quality and the level of play with Argentina.

    "We'll be preparing heavily for everything that Argentina will do and prepare for what they present. Certainly, Messi is still a massive part of their team and who they are."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Argentina – Lionel Messi

    Who else?

    His next appearance in the Copa America will be his 35th, overtaking Chile great Sergio Livingstone, and he has scored 13 goals for Argentina in the competition along the way.

    He has also provided nine Copa assists and has had more shots than any other player at the tournament since the start of the 2011 edition (102).

    Canada – Cyle Larin

    Larin is Canada's all-time top scorer, netting 29 times for his country in 68 appearances including a key strike in the win over Trinidad and Tobago.

    Despite struggling for goals in LaLiga with Real Mallorca in 2023-24, netting just seven times in all competitions, Larin will be looking to further improve his international record at the tournament, with Lille's David (26) fast closing in on his tally.

    MATCH PREDICTION: ARGENTINA WIN

    Unsurprisingly, Argentina are the overwhelming favourites to start their title defence with a win and they go in with a 74.3% chance of finishing the game with three points.

    Canada, meanwhile, are given just an 11% chance of claiming an upset in their Copa America debut, with the draw slightly more likely at 14.7%.

    The Albiceleste have only lost once since the start of 2023, and in that run of 14 matches, they have conceded just four goals and impressively kept 11 clean sheets.

    Canada failed to score in either of their warm-up friendlies against the Netherlands (4-0) and France (0-0) in the build-up to the tournament, last hitting the back of the net in March.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Argentina – 74.3%

    Draw – 14.7%

    Canada – 11%

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.