Gareth Southgate vows to protect England players in World Cup build-up after relegation from Nations League


Areth Southgate played down praise from England’s traveling support after their 1-0 defeat to Italy and suggested he was prepared to take the blame and defend his players from criticism as their dismal run continued.

England went five competitive games without a win for the first time since 1992 and crashed out of their Nations League group after Giacomo Raspadori’s fine second-half goal at the San Siro.

Southgate – who was jeered and jeered by the home fans during the 4-0 defeat to Hungary at Molineux in June – was booed by large sections of England’s traveling fans as he was applauded away from home after the final whistle.

“I understand the reaction at the end because we’ve had results like that in this competition,” the England coach said afterwards. “It’s an understandable emotional reaction.”

England failed to win or score in their four Nations League games in June, culminating in an embarrassing loss to Hungary.

“We can’t say these games don’t have value,” Southgate added. “These were important matches against top-level teams.

“Like I said [previously] there were many reasons for the results in the summer. We didn’t get the result we needed or wanted tonight. So we are in the hands of bad results. It’s up to us to make it right.

“The only way to do that is to stick to what we believe in, to stick to what has brought us success in previous tournaments, and at the end of the day the players have to stay really tight. There’s a lot of noise, but it’s still me and that’s perfectly fine. My the job is to take that pressure for them.”

England were in disarray for long periods against the European champions and were limited to late chances from Harry Kane, who forced Gianluigi Donnarumma into a double save, and Jude Bellingham’s header over the bar.

But Southgate insisted the performance was a step up and said his side only lacked polish in the final third.

“It is difficult for me to be too critical of the performance,” he said. “We had more ball, more shots, more shots.

“For large parts we played really well. We weren’t decisive defensively and we had moments to be more decisive in their final third and our quality wasn’t quite right. It’s a spell where at the end of the day the results are what everyone reacts to, but I thought , that there are a lot of positives for us as a team tonight. A lot of good individual performances, I personally thought the performance was a step in the right direction, but I can perfectly understand that because of the result, it fails to be a reaction.

“But I’m adamant that the reaction to tonight will depend on the result. We weren’t far off in terms of performance. I’ve got to keep the players believing in what they’re doing and not getting distracted or getting involved in areas that aren’t right. So that’s my job now .

“Of course they’re making a lot of noise, but it’s built up over the summer, really, and I understand that completely. The players in the dressing room know it was a game they could have won. And if they take their chances and defend the goal better, we’ll win. Those are good margins. We’re playing some of the biggest football nations and good margins are decisive.”