Southgate: Criticism hurts but we keep fighting

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — Gareth Southgate has admitted he has found the personal criticism of his management “difficult” in recent weeks but hailed his “streetwise” England side as they beat Switzerland on penalties to reach the Euro 2024 semifinals.

Bukayo Saka’s 80th-minute equaliser cancelled out Breel Embolo’s opening goal five minutes earlier as Gareth Southgate’s side were forced into extra time for the second consecutive game.

Switzerland edged the additional 30-minute period — Xherdan Shaqiri hit the post with a 117th-minute corner — but as Manuel Akanji had his penalty saved by Jordan Pickford in the shootout, Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Saka, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold all scored.

England only registered three shots on target all night and were once again stifled in possession despite Southgate switching to a three-man defence in an effort to improve their level of performance.

Southgate had beer cups thrown at him when drawing with Slovenia to top Group C and has faced a backlash to England’s conservative style, but will lead England into a third semifinal from his four tournaments in charge.

After celebrating with a short dance on the pitch following Alexander-Arnold’s winning penalty, former England Under-21’s coach Southgate said: “Every now and then you think: ‘Surely there has to be some enjoyment in this job.’

“So, if I can’t enjoy that moment then the whole thing is a waste of time. I love the players. I love being in that moment with them. I took this job to try and improve English football, not the seniors when I first joined the Football Association.

“I wanted us to regain credibility on the world stage. So I can’t deny that when it is as personal as it has been in the past few weeks, on a human level that is quite difficult. But we are fighting, we won’t stop fighting and we’re in another semifinal and we’ll see where we can get to.”

England are now one match from reaching their first final on foreign soil and Southgate pointed to the attritional style of other, more successful countries. France have reached the last four here in Germany without scoring a goal from open play.

“As I said to the players, again, with England it was often start 25 minutes really well, ahead in games and then and then out in the early knockout rounds,” Southgate said.

“We weren’t savvy, we weren’t tournament wise. This group are different. They keep possession for longer periods.

“We haven’t always got it right. The games with that we’ve ultimately gone out people can always look back and highlight things.

“But, in general, we’ve shown the resilience that the teams that win tournaments have had for years and years.

“Italy, France, Spain, you know, it’s not all pure football. It’s other attributes that they’ve had, and we’re showing a little bit more of that streetwise nature.

“We want to always be competitive in tournaments. England should be competitive for the coming years.

“This is a young team that a lot of them are going to be around for a long time. But, of course, now we want to deliver one. We’ve never been to a final outside of England, we’ve never won a Euros, so there’s two bits of history we’d love to create.”

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