Southgate praises England players after Spain draw
London, Nov 16 (IANS) England interim manager Gareth Southgate asserted that he has made a strong claim to a permanent appointment with the national football squad following the draw with former World Cup champions Spain at the Wembley Stadium here on Wednesday.
England produced a strong performance against a second string Spain team and led for most of the match before the visitors scored two late goals to secure a 2-2 draw.
Wednesday’s draw against the much higher rated Spaniards comes after England’s 3-0 win over Scotland in a World Cup qualifier last Friday and Southgate asserted that the team has been improving steadily since he took over.
“I’ve proved that I can handle big occasions. I’ve proved I can manage big matches; that I can tactically — with the help of my staff — prepare a team to play against a top side and give them a tough test. I feel every situation I’ve been through, and many have been complex and potential powder kegs, we’ve coped with very well. And I’m pleased with how we’ve coped with it all really.
“I’ve not learned anything about myself but I’ve learned a lot about the role and relished the challenge. More than that, we’ve built some important stability for the group of players and the team,” Southgate was quoted as saying by the local media after the match.
“It’s been a brilliant experience for me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the players and can see the potential of the group,” he added.
On Wednesday, Adam Lallana converted a penalty in the ninth minute to hand England an early lead before Leicester City star Jamie Vardy doubled the advantage in the 48th minute.
Spain however, fought back in the closing stages with Iago Aspas finding the net in the 89th minute while Alarcon Isco fired home the equaliser five minutes into added time with what was virtually the last kick of the match.
The result stretches England’s unbeaten run to four games since Southgate took over as interim manager.
The former Aston Villa defender said that he has introduced a new aggressive approach among the England players which is reaping rich dividends.
“We had long discussions before the game about our approach, wanting to be a front foot team pressing high. If we were going to be defeated it was going to be being positive and brave without the ball. You pay the price. We were fatiguing in the last 20 minutes, and they are a top, top side. It feels like a defeat for the players, but I couldn’t be prouder of their efforts. It was a healthy, positive performance.” Southgate said.
“(Against Spain) the detail of how we wanted to build from the back was different to how we wanted to press. The players are bullish about how they want to play. I’m pleased with the way we pressed and used the ball going forward on the counter attack. We started to tire in the second half and that’s where keeping the ball better will allow us to conserve energy better. We played one of the best teams in the world and I can’t have asked for any more,” he added.
“It’s an exciting group of players. They’ve got a lot of potential but there’s a long way to go before we can be considered a top team. I’m proud to have led the country for a couple of really important games and experienced what that feels like. We’ve got a European Under-21 Championship next summer and the draw is being made next month, so I need to know where I’m going to park my car for the next few weeks.”